Chinese scientists have discovered that two strains of coronavirus have evolved, with differing transmission rates and geographical distribution, South China Morning Post reported on Thursday quoting an article published in the National Science Review.

The group analysed 103 coronavirus genomes and identified mutations in 149 sites across the strains. They found that the L Type was more prevalent than the S Type, and thus more infectious. The researches also found that the L Type evolved from the S Type, and was prevalent even before January 7, when the coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan.

The researchers said that human actions taken immediately after the outbreak may have contributed to changing the abundance of each type. They said the spread of the L Type was likely curbed because the Chinese central and provisional governments took strong action to combat the illness.

The researchers said follow-up studies were needed to form a better understanding and evolution of the virus.

On February 24, scientists had ruled out the possibility that the virus had its origins in a seafood market in Wuhan selling illegal items. They said the virus was introduced from outside the market, though it spread in the market quickly.

Toll in China and South Korea

At least 38 people died of the COVID-19 in China on Thursday, most of them in the worst-affected Hubei province, taking the total number of deaths in the country to 2,981. The country reported 139 new cases of the virus on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, South Korea on Wednesday confirmed 435 new cases of COVID-19, down from 851 on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases in the country to 5,621. South Korea also reported four more deaths, making a total of 32 deaths.

Also read: Coronavirus outbreak: How to protect yourself from the virus