The coronavirus is not mutating significantly as it circulates through the human population, according to scientists who are closely studying the novel pathogen's genetic code.

That relative stability suggests the virus is less likely to become more or less dangerous as it spreads, and represents encouraging news for researchers hoping to create a long-lasting vaccine.

All viruses evolve over time, accumulating mutations as they replicate imperfectly inside a host's cells in tremendous numbers and then spread through a population, with some of those mutations persisting through natural selection.

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The new coronavirus has proof-reading machinery, however, and that reduces the "error rate" and the pace of mutation. The new coronavirus looks pretty much the same everywhere it has appeared, the scientists say, and there is no evidence that some strains are deadlier than others.

Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes the disease Covid-19, is similar to coronaviruses that circulate naturally in bats.

It jumped into the human species last year in Wuhan, China, likely through an intermediate species - possibly a pangolin, an endangered anteater whose scales are trafficked for traditional medicine.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave an address outlining the UK's coronavirus lockdown. Video / 4News