Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 Variants from Patient Specimens in Nevada from October 2020 to August 2021
Infection, Genetics and Evolution
Payen S.H., Gorzalski A., Siao D.D., Pandori M., Verma S.C. & Rossetto C.C.
In early 2020, the emergence and spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in the human population quickly developed into a global pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 is the etiological agent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) which has a broad range of respiratory illnesses. As the virus circulates, it acquires nucleotide changes. These mutations are potentially due to the inherent differences in the selection pressures within the human population compared to the original zoonotic reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 and formerly naïve humans. The acquired mutations will most likely be neutral, but some may have implications for viral transmission, disease severity, and resistance to therapies or vaccines. This is a follow-up study from our early report (Hartley et al. J Genet Genomics. 01202021;48(1):40–51) which detected a rare variant (nsp12, RdRp P323F) circulating within Nevada in mid 2020 at high frequency. The primary goals of the current study were to determine the phylogenetic relationship of the SARS-CoV-2 genomes within Nevada and to determine if there are any unusual variants within Nevada compared to the current database of SARS-CoV-2 sequences. Whole genome sequencing and analysis of SARS-CoV-2 from 425 positively identified nasopharyngeal/nasal swab specimens were performed from October 2020 to August 2021 to determine any variants that could result in potential escape from current therapeutics. Our analysis focused on nucleotide mutations that generated amino acid variations in the viral Spike (S) protein, receptor binding domain (RBD), and the RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase (RdRp) complex. The data indicate that SARS-CoV-2 sequences from Nevada did not contain any unusual variants that had not been previously reported. Additionally, we did not detect the previously identified the RdRp P323F variant in any of the samples. This suggests that the rare variant we detected before was only able to circulate because of the stay-at-home orders and semi-isolation experience during the early months of the pandemic.
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