Scientists have created a method for rapidly recognizing and marking mutated forms of the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 using information from the global testing database system, an advance that could help in the development of deadly disease therapeutics. Described in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, the new method detects trends from genetic information volumes and can determine if the virus has changed genetically.
The tool can be used to categorize viruses with minor genetic variations, according to researchers, including those from Drexel University in the US, using tags called Informative Subtype Markers (ISM).
Slight genetic variations in the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus have been categorized in the current study and labels have been produced that are publicly available to researchers worldwide.
The kinds of SARS-CoV-2 viruses we see in Asian and European experiments are different from the kinds we see in America. Identifying the differences helps us to see how the virus has moved from population to population as it has traveled. It can also show us the areas in which social distancing in isolating COVID-19 has been successful.
According to the researchers, the ISM tool is especially useful because it does not require a complete genetic sequence review of the virus to classify its mutations.
The researchers noted that it also established some positions in the viral genetic sequence that moved together as the virus spread.
According to scientists, three locations in the SARS-CoV-2 gene, which are in separate sections of the genome, mutated at the same time from early April to the end of the summer.
They said that one of these sections is related to the development of the virus’s spike protein that helps it to reach healthy cells.
Although further research is needed on how the propagation and intensity of the virus are influenced by these simultaneous mutations, the researchers said that sites that alter together can be used to simplify the subtype mark into 11 base molecules.