A study involving more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in Houston found that the virus that caused the disease was accumulating genetic mutations, one of which could make the disease more contagious. According to the article published in the peer review magazine mBIOThat mutation, called D614G, is in the mutant protein that opens up our cells for viruses to invade. This is the largest peer-reviewed study of the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence in an urban US region to date.
The article shows “the virus is mutating due to a combination of neutral drift – meaning that random genetic changes do not help or damage the virus – and the pressure from their immune systems. Ilya Finkelstein, associate professor of molecular biology science at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the study. The study was carried out by scientists at Houston Methodist Hospital, UT Austin and elsewhere.
During the initial pandemic, 71% of newly identified coronaviruses in Houston patients had this mutation. When the second outbreak hit Houston during the summer, this variant skyrocketed to a popularity of 99.9%. This reflects a trend observed around the world. A study published in July based on more than 28,000 genome sequences found that the variants carrying the D614G mutation became the dominant form of SARS-CoV-2 globally in about a month. SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
So why are strains containing the mutation outperforming strains without the mutation?
Perhaps they are more contagious. A study of more than 25,000 genome sequences in the UK found that viruses with the mutation tended to transmit slightly faster than viruses without it and cause larger clusters of infections. Natural selection will create favorable conditions for virus strains to spread more easily. But not all scientists are convinced. Some have suggested a different interpretation, called the “founder’s effect.” In that case, the D614G mutation could be more common in viruses that first arrived in Europe and North America, essentially giving them a head start on other strains.
Protein mutants are also continuing to accumulate unknown additional mutants. The Houston Methodist-UT Austin team also showed in lab experiments that at least one such mutation allows a spike to avoid a neutralizing antibody that humans naturally produce to fight infection. SARS-CoV-2. This could allow that variant of the virus to more easily cross our immune system. Although it is not clear whether that translates into it is also easily transferred between individuals.
The good news is that this mutation is very rare and does not seem to make the disease worse in infected patients. According to Finkelstein, the group that did not see the virus learned to evade first-generation vaccines and therapeutic antibody formulations.
“The virus continues to transform as it rips through the world,” Finkelstein said. “Real-time monitoring efforts like ours will ensure that global vaccines and treatments are always one step ahead.”
Scientists recorded a total of 285 mutations per thousands of infections, although most did not seem to have a significant effect on the severity of the disease. Ongoing studies continue to examine the third wave of COVID-19 patients and determine how the virus characterizes how the neutralizing antibodies produced by their immune systems are. me. Each new infection is a roll of dice, an additional chance to develop more dangerous mutations.
Houston Methodist lead author James Musser told The Washington Post: “We have given this virus a lot of opportunity. “There is a huge population size today.”
Several other UT Austin authors contributed to the work: visiting scholar Jimmy Gollihar, associate professor of molecular biology science Jason S. McLellan and graduate students Chia-Wei Chou, Kamyab Javanmardi and Hung-Che Kuo .
The UT Austin team tested different genetic variations of the virus’s mutant protein, the part that allows it to infect the host cell, to measure the protein’s stability and see how well it binds. with receptors on the host cell and to neutralize antibodies. Earlier this year, McLellan and his team at UT Austin, in collaboration with researchers at the National Institutes of Health, developed the first 3-D map of the coronavirus mutant protein for an innovation that now this becomes the design of some of the top vaccine candidates.
Researchers found that SARS-CoV-2 had been brought to the Houston area several times, independently, from diverse geographic regions, with strains from Europe, Asia, and South America. and elsewhere in the United States. There was widespread popularity in the community shortly after COVID-19 cases were reported in Houston.
An earlier version of the article was posted last month to the print server medRxiv.
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The molecular architecture of early proliferation and giant second wave of SARS-CoV-2 virus in a large urban area, mBIO, DOI: 10.1128 / mBio.02707-20, race.asm.org/content/11/6/e02707-20
Provided by the University of Texas at Austin
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