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Secret to Spread Not in Genes

The recent outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in South Korea is spreading more rapidly than previous outbreaks of the disease, prompting concerns that it might've mutated to become more easily passed from person to person.

According to LiveScience, some 87 people in South Korea have come down with the illness and six have died. Nearly 2,000 schools have shut down as a precaution and thousands of people are under quarantine because they were in contact with an infected person.

Researchers at the Korea National Institute of Health and the Chinese Center for Disease and Control and Prevention separately sequenced viral samples taken from two patients and found no mutations that would make it more dangerous, NPR's Goats and Soda blog reports.

The spread of the disease is thus likely due to other factors such as a delayed response to the outbreak, insufficient infection control procedures, and the possibility the index patient was a super-spreader of disease who produced unusually high levels of viral particles in the lungs that got passed on to others, NPR adds.