A preliminary study published by scientists at Chinese universities has linked two different species of the virus behind the infections worldwide.

Scientists at Peking University and the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai in China say that two different species of SAR-CoV-2 virus could be behind the COVID-19 infections. The first type of the virus appears to be the more aggressive type as it accounted for 70 percent of analyzed strains, while the second, less aggressive form, was linked to 30 percent of analyzed strains.

The scientists added that the more aggressive type of virus was found to be prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan — the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected late last year. But the frequency of this type of virus appears to have decreased from early January.

The researchers said their results indicate the development of new variations of the spike in COVID-19 cases was “likely caused by mutations and natural selection besides recombination.”

“These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” they said.

Researchers cautioned that data examined in the study was still “very limited,” emphasizing that follow-up studies of a larger set of data would be needed to gain a “better understanding” of the evolution and epidemiology of COVID-19.

The study comes shortly after the WHO confirmed the fast-spreading virus had infected more than 93,000 people worldwide and claimed more than 3,000 lives. Though the vast majority of infections and deaths so far have been in China, new daily infections from around the world have begun to exceed those reported from China. South Korea, Italy, Iran and Germany have all recorded sharp upticks in cases of the flu-like virus in recent days.

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