Common mutations do not increase the spread of COVID-19, study says

According tomedia BGR, the new coronavirus can spread rapidly, making it an extremely dangerous pathogen. The researchers analyzed the genomes of various SARS-CoV-2 strains to identify the most common mutations and to demonstrate that these genetic changes did not increase the propagation of COVID-19. Most mutations appear to be neutral or slightly detrimental to the virus, and they are mainly induced by the immune system’s response rather than by the virus’s adaptability.

Common mutations do not increase the spread of COVID-19, study says

Viruses are living creatures that can be adapted to the environment by mutation. Scientists are already keeping a close eye on the various genetic mutations that have occurred in the COVID-19 strain observed since December, and they have good news. These mutations do not increase the ability of pathogens to spread to others.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) published a new study last week in the form of a preprint edited version in bioRxiv. The study, based on a peer-reviewed study published earlier this month in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution, details “the diversity pattern in the SARS-CoV-2 genome.”

Geneticists at the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed the viral genomes of more than 15,000 COVID-19 patients from 75 countries and tried to determine whether strains characterized by new mutations were actually more likely to spread than previous ones. Researchers found 6,822 mutations worldwide, including 273 “repeated independent mutations.” Among them, they focused on 31 mutations that occurred at least 10 times during the pandemic.

They modeled the “evolutionary trees” of these major mutations to see if their offspring would be more likely to surpass virus versions without the same mutation. The study found no evidence that these common mutations increase the ability of the virus to spread. Some common genetic variants are neutral, but most are “mildly harmful,” the scientists said. Many mutations are induced by the human immune system, not by viruses adapting to the needs of human hosts.

The researchers also analyzed a specific mutation of the protoglobulin (S protein) that affects the new coronavirus. The mutation, known as D614G, appeared in other studies, and one researcher believes it may increase the spread of the virus. UCL researchers say this is not the case, and that D614G is not associated with the spread of COVID-19.