Just when you’ve heard so much about the 3 main variants in the news cycle – the UK variant (B.1.1.7), the South African variant (B.188.8.131.52) and the South American variant (P.1 variant)), and at least one mutation – E484K – which is implied in the South African, and now in the UK variant, comes a new “domestic” mutation right here in the US known as “677”, or more formally Q677P, recently identified by US researchers
It is unclear whether this mutation, which has now been identified in seven lineages or variants of Covid-19, makes it more transmissible. But there is a growing concern that this potential may exist.
According to a new overprint (which has not been reviewed), all of these mutations appear to affect the same area of the ear protein (amino acid position # 677) – a bulging area on the surface of the virus – which it uses to attach to infected cells.
Scientists had already reviewed genomic sequences in a repository known as GISAID, the global database used to share and share genetic sequences related to Covid-19, but the discovery of seven new lines or variants became apparent in late January when 2 independent SARS-Programs genomic surveillance CoV-2 – the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque and the University of Louisiana Health School in Shreveport – have detected an increasing number of viruses with the Q677P mutation, with a significant increase in samples from late 2020 to mid-January.
One question is whether 677 the mutation will have any effect on the ability of available vaccines to prevent an “immune escape” from neutralizing antibodies associated with the mutations contained in these evolutionary variants. We know that researchers have noticed that the virus tries to evolve to increase its transmission potential and eventually survive.
But whether it remains unclear whether a single mutation, 677 in this case, allows escape from neutralizing antibodies or even increases transmission mechanisms, such as increased ease of cell entry via ACE2 receptors, with some suspicion that potential may still exist. Nevertheless, one expert reports that it may be less likely.
“There is not enough information about this mutation  available, but it is generally not the case that an individual mutation produces immune evasion, “said Amesh Adalja, Ph.D. med., an infectious disease physician and senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Safety. And, relative to other identified Covid-19 mutations for reference, “484 [E484K] it does not happen in isolation, ”he added.
However, one of the pre-press co-authors, Vaughn Cooper, told CNN that the site of the mutation in the anchor area of the protein spikes is in trouble. “The Spike area is important because of its proximity to a region crucial for virulence. We actually think that these mutations are relatively rare (compared to other types of mutations), but are disproportionately selected when they occur. “
Dr Jeremy Kamil, a senior author of the study, told the New York Times, “I think there is a clear signature of evolutionary benefit.” And, in this case, Camille was referring to the process of convergent evolution that is on the scene – something that ultimately improves the ability of any organism to survive.
Although Charles Darwin recognized convergent evolution in animals, virologists have also noted that this process can occur in viruses, and HIV is an example where different types of viruses have moved from monkeys and apes to humans, acquiring similar HIV lineages while spread among human populations.
To facilitate the description and identification of subtypes of this mutation within the seven lineages, scientists have incorporated bird names to distinguish them, using names such as Robin 1, Robin 2, Yellow Hammer, Pelican, Bird Bird, Quail and Mockingbird.
Robin 1 it is now seen in more than 30 states in the United States, mostly in the Midwest. Robin 2 appeared in early October on a sample in Alabama, confined mainly to the southeastern U.S. The second lineage, named Pelican, was originally identified in a sample from Oregon, but was later found in 12 additional U.S. states, as well as in Europe (Denmark and Switzerland), Australia, and India.
Pelican it was the first subline or variant of particular interest to researchers because it was found in close to 28% of viral samples from Louisiana and 11% from New Mexico. The remainder of the Q677P subline has less than 100 genetic sequences, incl Yellowhammer, predominantly in the southeastern United States, Bluebird, in the northeastern United States, Quail found in the southwest and northeast and Mockingbird, located predominantly in the states of the south and east coasts.
With increasing genomic surveillance, but still uncommon, the ability to identify these sublines was rather limited. The possibility of finding more of these variants certainly exists as surveillance increases.
“These variants were not discovered until mid-August 2020, but as of February 3, 2021, they already make up over 2,327 of the 102,462 genomes deposited in GISAID from the United States,” the authors write before the press.
This certainly deserves continuous attention because I hope that genomic surveillance will increase over the coming months.