Mutational Similarities Between SARS-CoV-2 and Its Predecessors

Authors: | Original story from University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Credit: Pete Linforth/ Pixabay

New research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has shown that the mutations arising in the COVID-19-causing SARS-CoV-2 virus seem to run in the family — or at least the genus of coronaviruses most dangerous to humans.

After comparing the early evolution of SARS-CoV-2 against that of its closest relatives, the betacoronaviruses, the Nebraska team found that SARS-CoV-2 mutations are occurring in essentially the same locations, both genetically and structurally.

The mutational similarities between SARS-CoV-2 and its predecessors, including the human-infecting SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV, could help inform predictions of how the COVID-causing virus will continue to evolve, the researchers said.

“The problem of looking at only one virus at a time is that you lose the forest for the trees,” said Katherine LaTourrette, a doctoral student in the Complex Biosystems program at Nebraska. “By looking at this big picture, we were able to predict the mutational nature of SARS-CoV-2.

“That gets into these questions of: Are vaccines going to be effective long term? Which variants are going to sneak by? Do we need that booster shot? Are vaccinated people going to be infected a second time?”

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