What do studies on new coronavirus mutations tell us?

The new coronavirus is mutating and evolving as it adapts to its human hosts -- that’s according to a series of studies from thousands of samples.

But what does this mean? Let’s rewind.

The coronavirus disease is called COVID-19 and the virus responsible for it is called SARS-CoV-2.

Experts have been studying the genomes of the SARS-CoV-2 and here’s what they’ve found:

Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States tracked genetic mutations, in the "spike" of the new coronavirus - the part that gives it its distinctive shape.

They found 14 such mutations -- one of which they say was "of urgent concern" as it may be becoming dominant and may make the disease more infectious.

University College London also found 198 mutations from a sample of 7,500 infected patients around the world -- but said none appear to be particularly worrying at this stage.

Now we know viruses mutate -- it's what they do. But what does this information tell us?

Well, another study from Britain's Glasgow University, which also analyzed mutations, found that these changes did not signal that there are different strains of the virus.

That contradicts a previous study by Chinese researchers that suggested there had been two strains circulating in people at the start of the outbreak, and that one had been more "aggressive."

So what does that mean?

Well some geneticists, like Eric Topol who founded Scripps Research Institute in California say this debunks the idea of multiple strains all together. Saying quote "We know there is only one strain."

Others say it provides fascinating insights into the evolution of the virus -- showing that this coronavirus mutates.

But do these mutations mean the virus is getting more dangerous?

Lucy van Dorp, who co-led the UCL work, said that looking into more stable parts of the virus could help with drug and vaccine development.

But quite simply -- Genetics experts say it's still too early to know whether any of the mutations are meaningful.