Icelandic scientists believe they have found 40 mutations of coronavirus – and say seven cases can be traced back to a single football match in England.
The mutations were discovered by analyzing swabs of Covid-19 patients in Iceland – where almost 600 cases have been reported so far.
It comes as the number of those infected with coronavirus across the world continues to rise – with cases in 183 countries.
In the UK the death toll hit 422 today, with 8,077 people infected.
And in the daily Government press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for 250,000 Brits to sign up as volunteers to help the 1.5million people self-isolating for the next 12 weeks.
The new findings – which have not yet been published, meaning they have yet to be scrutinized by other experts – showcases in Iceland could be traced back to three countries, England, Austria and Italy.
But, one stand out discovery was the fact seven infected people all went to the same, undisclosed football match in England.
The team of Icelandic scientists used genetic sequencing to identify how many mutations the virus had undergone.
These genetic variations are like viral fingerprints – and help boffins pinpoint where in the world a virus originated.
Some mutations will make a virus more infectious, others are more deadly.
Mutating is the process that would have allowed this new strain of coronavirus to attack the human body in the first place – allowing it to pass from its animal host.
Scientists believe the new coronavirus remained hidden in animals for years, perhaps even decades before jumping from bats to humans, via a possible but unknown animal, in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Icelandic scientists investigated the virus within their own country, where one death has been reported.
The health authorities there, along with genetics firm DeCode Genetics, tested 9,768 people for coronavirus.
Some 5,000 volunteers who did not have any symptoms joined the study – 48 of whom actually tested positive.
Kári Stefánsson, director of DeCode Genetics, said – We can see how viruses mutate.
We have found 40 island-specific virus mutations.
We found someone who had a mixture of viruses.
They had viruses from before and after the mutation, and the only infections traceable to that person are the mutated virus.
One person was found to carry two variants of the coronavirus.
DeCode Genetics was able to trace how the virus entered Iceland, an island nation home to around 365,000 people.
Dr. Stefánsson added – Some came from Austria. There is another type from people who were infected in Italy. And there is a third type of virus found in people infected in England.
Seven people had attended a football match in England.
The study has not yet been published, meaning it hasn’t yet been analyzed by other scientists.
He told the MailOnline: This is much as we would expect. All viruses accumulate mutations, but few of them are of much medical consequence.
They are valuable in tracing the origins of infection chains.
It looks like Iceland has imported quite a few infections from other European countries.
Allan Randrup Thomsen, a virologist from the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen, said the results described by the team make good sense.