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Russian woman develops 18 new mutations of coronavirus – Study

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A Russian woman, who was being treated for cancer, could not recover from COVID-19 for six months and during this time, she developed 18 new mutations of coronavirus

Coronavirus has accelerated the evolution in the body of a patient with reduced immunity, having accumulated 18 new mutations in almost six months of the disease. Russian doctors write about this in their report on Virological.

A 47-year-old woman with B-cell lymphoma, who was undergoing chemotherapy in late March and early April 2020, contracted the coronavirus from an elderly woman, with whom she was in the same room.

Next-generation sequencing was performed on a nasopharyngeal swab sample obtained from patient S and comparing it with the genetic sequence showed the presence of 18 new mutations, two of which (Y453F and Δ69-70HV) affected the S-protein: the one that forms spikes on the surface of viral particles.

Scientists note that this protein is responsible for the “boarding” of victim cells, and changes in it are very important since they can affect the strength of the binding viral particles to the cell, and antibodies – with this part of the virus. That is, mutations in the S-protein can potentially make vaccines ineffective: they will have to be promptly corrected for strains escaping the immune response.

The combination of the Y453F and Δ69-70HV mutations are known as “mink” cluster and was first discovered in these animals in Denmark. 

But the strain of patient S. was in no way linked genealogically to the mink strain: it developed independently.

The authors emphasize: previously, the Δ69-70HV mutation was already found in the strain of another patient with weakened immunity, who was treated with plasma with antibodies from those who had covid.

Other scientists have suggested that the more infectious “British” strain B.1.1.7 also appeared in a patient with a chronic infection: in such patients, an accelerated evolution of the pathogen allegedly occurs. That is, their immunity cannot effectively and quickly destroy the infection: as a result, the virus manages to mutate and some changes that are beneficial for it (for example, in terms of escaping antibodies) are fixed. This, however, has not been proven, and remains only one theory.

The authors caution that strains that appear in immunocompromised patients (or minks) “may later spread to the population and affect the characteristics of the strains circulating there.”

Earlier it was reported that a new mutation of the coronavirus was recorded in Japan. The new strain was found in four people who flew in from Brazil. It differs from the “British” and “South African” versions.

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