The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is found to be mutating several times over the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic course. All these mutations have escalated the rise of new variants, especially the VOCs or variants of concern that evolved continuously to become more dangerous than the original virus. One of the VOCs, the Alpha Variant, is a consequence of such alterations. Currently, a new study shows that the deletion of only two amino acids makes the variant stronger and overcome all the flaws in the original form. It makes it more infective.
As per the multi-institutional study, this deletion of amino acids from its spike protein helps invade cells better and infect them with improved efficiency. It was also discovered that the deletion exists in over 600,000 SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences all across the globe and has gone through massive expansion, especially in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The senior author of the study Dr Ravi Gupta said that they first witnessed this mutation in an immunocompromised patient. When they analyzed the samples across the world of the Alpha variant, they saw the mutation had spread several times independently.
The Deletion that Increases Infectivity
The team found out that the removal or deletion of the two amino acids did not allow the virus from removing neutralizing bodies that got from vaccination. However, scientists have discovered that the deletion provided the virus with double the infectivity. The pathogens can penetrate and infect all the cells with doubled efficiency. The virus particles that have undergone deletion carry a huge amount of mature spikes on their surface. Such a condition allows the virus to multiply itself numerous times effectively.
Dr Gupta highlighted that they saw the amino acid deletion was there in some cases, and this deletion benefitted the virus to compensate for the effects that came along with other mutations and allowed the virus to escape the immune response. The deletion allowed the Alpha variants to be better at escaping the immunity and become more infectious.
Co-lead author of the study, Dr Dalan Bailey, told while talking about the impacts of the two amino acids deletion that in terms of evolutionary, whenever a virus develops a weakness, it results in its demise. However, the deletion of two amino acids in the variants has made the virus able to mutate way further than it naturally would have. This explains the reason that the deletions are now becoming so widespread.