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This is a summary of "The D614G mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein reduces S1 shedding and increases infectivity"


Is a Spike protein mutation making COVID-19 more infectious?

Experiments carried out in kidney cells seem to show that the D614G mutation helps stabilize the spike protein, and might be responsible for its increase throughout the globe. These experiments were not carried out in settings similar to an actual COVID infection, and some results contradict previous work on the subject. Therefore, the results should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Key takeaways

Why is this important?

Mutations in viruses are one way for viruses to survive, evolve and continue infecting hosts. This is why we need a new flu vaccine every year. Keeping up to date with the mutations that are appearing in COVID is very important both in terms of preparing for changes in the pandemic, as well as making sure our therapeutics and preventatives are as effective against the virus with these new mutations as they were against the original form of the virus. The D614G mutant was identified at the end of April. This mutation seems to spread much more quickly than the original version of the virus, and by April had become the dominant form of the virus. The original study was not able to show any clinical differences between patients with the different forms of the virus in terms of length of hospital stay or mortality. Nevertheless, such a rapid rate of growth for the mutant form was very unusual and required further investigation.

The current work tries to see if they can show, under lab settings, if there is a difference between the two forms of the virus. As working with the virus carries a lot of risk and requires more sophisticated labs, most researchers work on human viruses using what are known as Virus Like Particles (VLPs) or pseudoviruses (PVs). In the case of COVID, the researchers take an unrelated virus (that is often not harmful to humans) and add the protein of interest from COVID, or they create a virus particle that lacks essential proteins, which means it is not able to replicate in human cells. The danger of this approach is that if the new conditions are too far away from the normal conditions of COVID infection, the results from these experiments might not be the same as the results if the experiments were carried out with the real virus on the correct cells.

What did the study do?

The original paper is a preprint study. It has not been certified by peer review from other researchers, and information presented may be erroneous. Do not use it to guide clinical practice! Learn more →

Original Paper DOI10.1101/2020.06.12.148726

The D614G mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein reduces S1 shedding and increases infectivity [PDF]

Additional Reading

For more details and technical discussion of the study, we recommend reading the following resources:

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