Researchers identify novel SARS-CoV-2 variant unregistered on genomic sequence databases

Image Credit: joshimerbin / Shutterstock

Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta, Ph.D. | News-Medical.Net | Apr 7 2021

A team of scientists from the University of California Santa Cruz, USA, recently identified a novel variant (B.1.x) of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that might be circulating in at least 20 US states and six countries globally. The mutations found in this variant are also present in other known variants of concern (VOCs). Crucially, because of the presence of a large deletion mutation, the sequence of B.1.x has been rejected by automated sequence checking tools used in publicly available genomic sequence databases. The study is currently available on the bioRxiv* preprint server.

Background

Whole genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 is one of the conventional methods to track viral evolution. A continuous sequencing of the viral genome is particularly important to identify the mutations that have emerged under positive selection and play vital roles in improving viral fitness, such as increased transmissibility and evasion of host immunity. In other words, early detection of new viral variants through genome sequencing is essential for understanding strain-specific clinical characteristics and developing strain-specific diagnostics and therapeutic and prophylactic interventions.

In the later phase of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, several new SARS-CoV-2 variants have been identified, with some showing significantly higher transmissibility and immune-evasion ability. These variants are designated as Variants of concern (VOCs) because of their severe impact on public health responses. The presence of multiple spike mutations is the most common feature among various VOCs, including the UK variant (lineage: B.1.1.7), the south African variant (lineage: B.1.351), and the Brazilian variant (lineage: P.1).

[Read more…]