Molecular investigation of COVID-19’s subsequent wave shows freak infections connected to quick spread

Molecular investigation of COVID-19’s subsequent wave shows freak infections connected to quick spread


  • Post By : Kumar Jeetendra

  • Source: Houston Methodist

  • Date: 24 Sep,2020

Molecular analysis of COVID-19’s powerful second wave in Houston — from May 12 to July 7 — shows that a mutated virus strain linked to higher transmission and infection rates than the coronavirus strains that caused Houston’s first wave.

Gene sequencing results from 5,085 COVID-positive patients analyzed at Houston Methodist since early March show a virus capable of adapting, surviving and thriving — which makes it more important than ever for physician scientists to understand its evolution as they work to discover effective vaccines and therapies.

In the second big gene sequencing study conducted by James M. Musser, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at Houston Methodist, and his team of infectious disease pathologists, they found that the two waves affected different types of patients.

The study, preprinted under the title”Molecular architecture of ancient dissemination and massive second wave of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a major metropolitan area,” provides the first molecular characterization of SARS-CoV-2 strains causing two distinct COVID-19 disease waves, a issue now happening extensively in many European countries.

Houston’s second wave hit significantly younger patients who had fewer underlying conditions and were more likely to be Hispanic/Latino residing in lower income neighborhoods.

Additionally, virtually all COVID-19 strains analyzed during the second wave displayed a Gly614 amino acid replacement in spike protein — the part of the virus that mediates invasion into human cells, provides the coronavirus its telltale crown-like appearance and is the major focus of vaccine efforts worldwide.

“This extensive virus genome data gathered from Houston’s earliest cases to date, coupled with the growing database we are building at Houston Methodist, will help us identify the origins of new infection spikes and waves. This information can be an especially helpful community resource as schools and colleges re-open and public health constraints are further relaxed.”

James M. Musser, M. D, Ph.D, Study Corresponding Author, Chair, Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine, Houston Methodist

While this mutation has been linked with increased transmission and infectivity, in addition to a higher virus load in the nasopharynx, which connects the nasal cavity with the throat, the mutation did not increase disease severity, researchers said.

The findings reinforce researchers’ concerns of the virus gaining momentum through naturally occurring mutations capable of generating mutant viruses which can escape pathogens — dubbed’escapians’ — or mutants that could resist drugs and other therapies.

This preprint is not the last version of the article.

Wesley Long, M.D., Ph.D., a primary author of the study, said it is essential for people throughout the region, state and nation continue to keep preventive practices in place. “To prevent that third wave and maintain cases low, we have to keep wearing masks and social distancing and testing and staying home if we are sick,” Long said.

The more scientists can understand about this outbreak and set it in context with what they know about other coronaviruses, Long adds, the more able they may be to discover vaccines or treatments which may shield us from not just COVID-19, but also future pandemics.

Journal reference:

Long, S. W., et al. (2020) Molecular Architecture of Early Dissemination and Massive Second Wave of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus in a Major Metropolitan Area. server

About Author