As the severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections spread rapidly over the world, causing the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), transmission patterns have evolved quickly. At first, most infections appeared to have been imported, but by the end of February 2020, community spread was occurring in a sustained manner.
A new preprint on the medRxiv* server describes the identification of multiple circulating variants of SARS-CoV-2 during this early pandemic period from Asia and Europe. In addition, there were multiple local introductions of different variants, that resulted in multiple waves of transmission.
Importance of tracing mutations in SARS-CoV-2
The current study made use of whole genome phylogenetics in order to uncover the diverse genotypes in circulation in different localities. Such methods have been essential to understanding the virus’s spread, identifying epicenters of infection, and for better contact tracing. The larger importance of SARS-CoV-2 diversity remains to be revealed.
It is possible that emerging mutations could confer increased virulence and transmissibility, driving the outbreak’s scale. Another potential consequence could be a mutational escape from host immune responses, which has implications for vaccine development…