COVID-19 has damped the whole world in both health and economy. The spread of the virus is surging rapidly and is extremely uncontrollable. Viral survival and transmission in different countries are caused by mutations occurring in the genetic sequences of positive-sense viral RNA. This mutation can happen when a virus interacts with other viruses in the same host cell or during replication of the virus or can also be due to the changes induced by the host’s immune system. Lack of proofreading ability in RNA polymerases increases the rate of mutation during replication of the virus.
Scientists found no evidence that any of the mutations can increase the virus transmissibility, although some mutations can be detrimental or beneficial to the virus.
The experimental trial
Researchers from University College London examined more than 15,000 SARS-CoV-2 samples collected from people of 75 different countries. They so far identified 6,822 different mutations from the initial course of the pandemic. Of these, 273 have happened repeatedly and independently. In this, almost 31 mutations have occurred more than ten times independently, which may have some advantage to the virus.
To test whether mutation increases viral transmissibility, researchers have modeled the evolutionary virus tree. They analyzed the particular mutation which found to be increasing in the evolutionary tree, and descendants of that virus outperform their closely related individuals that don’t carry it. By this novel technique, they concluded that none of the recurrent mutations show any evidence of increasing viral transmissibility, but it seems to have a slightly detrimental effect on the virus.
Even there was a mutation in the spike protein (D614G) of the virus. This spike protein plays a key role in attaching to the host’s receptor and thereby allowing the virus to enter the cell. Some reports showed that D614G mutation could make the virus more transmissible. But, the later study proved that this mutation is not associated with increases in viral transmission. Lucy van Dorp from UCL Genetics institute said that “It is only to be expected that a virus will mutate and eventually diverge into different lineages as it becomes more common in the human population, but this does not necessarily imply that any lineage will emerge that are more transmissible or harmful.”
Analyzing these mutations can be used to control the spread of the pandemic and also the possible way of treating the affected patients. Still, there is a lot to open, and we will wait for the probable outcomes in the future.
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