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The ancestor of the Novel Coronavirus strain from China may have entered India in November or December before the first confirmed case was found in Kerala: Reports

Scientists are unclear whether this strain coronavirus was introduced by passengers travelling from China to India prior to January 30 as no widespread testing was conducted during that period.

A startling study about the emergence of Wuhan coronavirus in India has revealed that the country’s patient zero, the first confirmed COVID-19 case from Kerala on January 30, was afflicted with the strain of the virus that belonged to the Wuhan ancestor. The scientists from the top Indian research institutes believe that the ancestor of the novel coronavirus strain which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan may be prevalent as early as November 2019.

Though the first case of coronavirus in India was reported from the southern state of Kerala on January 30, 2020, the top researches of the country estimate that the ancestor of the novel coronavirus strain, a virus with Chinese roots, was in circulation in India by December 11, 2019. The scientists have used a technique called ‘the most recent common ancestor’ or MRCA to determine that the ancestor of virus strain now rampant in Telangana and other states had its genesis between November 26 and December 25. The median of the time period being December 11.

Scientists are unclear whether this strain coronavirus was introduced by passengers travelling from China to India prior to January 30 as no widespread testing was conducted during that period.

A different strain of coronavirus

Furthermore, researchers, including those at Hyderabad’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and other institutes have also discovered a distinctly different strain of coronavirus and named it as Clade I/A3i.

A ‘clade’ is defined as a group of organisms believed to comprise all the evolutionary descendants of a common ancestor.

Dr Rakesh Mishra, director CCMB, told to Times of India that the virus which was found at the first coronavirus case in Kerala had its roots in Wuhan but the one found in Hyderabad(Clade I/A3i) is starkly different from the first reported COVID-19 case in the country and seems to have its origins in a South Asian country, not in China. Dr Mishra is not certain about the country from which the new strain of coronavirus might have emerged.

The MRCA of Clade I/A3i was discovered to be in circulation between January 17 and February 25, with the median being February 8. Another clade A2a, which is the prevalent clade in India had an MRCA of 2nd Jan 2020 with the period of likely emergence lying between December 13, 2019, and January 22, 2020, Mishra added, as per the TOI report.

Single point spread

The scientists believe that the new clade was introduced in India from a single point and it was from a single outbreak. Later, it saw a rapid spread across multiple regions in the country. Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Maharashtra and Delhi have the highest proportions of the new clade, informed Dr Mishra.

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