Author: Patrick Gower

Kiwi scientists have identified the "family" of COVID-19 outbreak -  and it is called B.1.1.1.

Newshub has learned the genome sequence of the original four cases has been identified meaning its lineage has been tracked.

Otago University's Dr Jemma Geoghegan has done the sequencing and said it was part of what was called B.1.1.1.

The sequencing follows scientists from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) extracting the ribonucleic acid or RNA from inside the samples - which is like human DNA.

It puts it inside a massive and complicated family tree of the virus - with B.1.1.1 effectively a major branch of the tree.

Using the global crowdsourcing forum called "Nextstrain", the lineage can be tracked around the world.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield pointed out on Thursday that the samples had strong links to the United Kingdom and Australia.

But B.1.1.1  is also present in other places like Peru, Uruguay, South Africa, Switzerland and Bangladesh. 

Nextstrain provides detailed information on where most of New Zealand's cases came from.

However, at this stage the scientists from ESR and the University of Otago have not been able to link these new B.1.1.1 cases to any that have been in managed isolation - but they still have some sequencing to do. 

They are working with urgency to get that done and try and find a match here.

Until then, the mystery remains - how did it get the virus here.

This genome science will eventually help get to the answer.

Note from Nighthawk.NZ:

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