One Year of SARS-CoV-2: How Much Has the Virus Changed?
Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136, USA
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33136, USA
Institute for Data Science and Computing, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33146, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 21 December 2020 / Revised: 15 January 2021 / Accepted: 22 January 2021 / Published: 26 January 2021
Now that vaccines have been developed and are being deployed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, a major concern is the emergence of mutations in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that confer immune escape or enhanced fitness. As such, it is important to assess how rapidly the virus is mutating to gauge the likelihood of such an event. Using ≈290,000 SARS-CoV-2 proteome sequences deposited in a resource known as the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), we show that 27 of the proteins comprising the SARS-CoV-2 virus are mutating at different rates, with most exhibiting little to no mutational variability. Specifically, we observe that the principal targets of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, the Spike and Nucleocapsid proteins, have the highest mutational variability. Additionally, we provide the foremost assessment of SARS-CoV-2 mutations in terms of time, geography, and their location in the available 3D protein structure. Together, these data demonstrate that the SARS-CoV-2 proteome is slowly accumulating mutations. These finding suggest that extant vaccines and therapies will likely remain effective for the foreseeable future, but the continued surveillance for mutations in primary viral targets is warranted.