Thursday, July 15, 2021

A Study Finds a New Mutation That May Have Led To the Coronavirus Transmitting to Humans


(“Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).” U.S Food & Drug Administration, FDA, )

        A recent study shows that the strain of coronavirus that swept the world in a devastating pandemic may have been able to infect humans via one mutation. This mutation, called T372A, is predicted by researchers to cause sugars that generally coat the virus's spike proteins not to be present. Researchers also indicated that the sugars obstructed the virus from getting into cells. The T372A mutation seems to enable the spike proteins of the Covid-19 virus to stick to ACE2 (a human version of a host protein). This mutation replaces the amino acid threonine with the amino acid alanine. This change led to the sugars of the spike protein no longer appearing on the protein's surface. The virus can utilize the ACE2 protein to infect humans.

Moreover, researchers found that viruses with this mutation could latch onto human cells more efficiently than the non-mutated version of the virus. Lab studies conducted by researchers found that the virus could replicate more efficiently in lab-grown human lung cells compared to the non-mutated version of the virus. While this discovery is a critical step to understanding how the virus was transmitted from humans and its origin, scientists note that it's likely a combination of mutations led to this occurring. By understanding what changes in the genetic sequences of the coronavirus led to its high transmission rate and its jump to infecting humans from animals, it can be treated more efficiently, and spread can be stopped to prevent another pandemic.

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