Singaporean biologists have discovered the first major change in the genome of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. A study by biologists and doctors from Singapore National University is published in an article for the bioRxiv electronic scientific library.
Compared to the first samples of the new coronavirus, a 382-letter-long nucleotide fragment disappeared from its genome next to ORF8, a special site in the coronavirus RNA that is responsible for starting the process of assembling protein N, one of the key components of SARS-CoV-2. It is this fragment of coronavirus that is associated with the copying of its RNA and the formation of new viral particles.
Scientists believe that the coronavirus mutation occurred in February 2020. A change in the genome made it less active in the first phases of infection and, accordingly, less noticeable for human immunity.
Such a change allowed the coronavirus to increase the speed of spread even in the conditions of struggle with it. In addition, a gene mutation has led to the fact that the symptoms of a new type of coronavirus infection appear up to 14 days after infection.
At the same time, scientists previously believed that SARS-CoV-2 is stable and cannot mutate in response to external factors. Biologists and physicians from Singapore National University have come to a new conclusion by studying coronavirus samples from the secretions that were collected from all patients in Singapore clinics.