Contrary to growing worries about the genetic variation of Covid-19, a recent study reported there have been no worrisome mutations found among Korean patients so far.
The study result could be a positive sign that can dispel concerns that the vaccine under development may become useless, Myongji Hospital said.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), Myongji Hospital, and CancerRop jointly conducted the multidisciplinary research by analyzing eight genomes of six confirmed patients hospitalized and treated at the hospital and studied the characteristics and mutation of the virus.
The study is likely to have a positive effect on the development of vaccines and therapeutics based on known virus characteristics, the hospital said. Also, low mutations are less likely to mutate target sites of diagnostic kits or antibody-based treatments, making it easier to develop kits or treatments and increasing the accuracy of epidemiological investigations through sequencing.
Genome analysis of the Covid-19 virus is essential for understanding the nature and mutant of the virus. Analyzing the strain through genomic analysis can identify the path of infection and provide vital information necessary for vaccine development.
The study subjects were from Daegu, North Gyeongsang Province, and the Seoul metro region, in varying grades of mild, severe, cured, and dead patients. The study result revealed that the virus detected from the diagnoses in Daegu was a type B strain in East Asia, which was different from the European type C virus.
The result is believed to be an example of epidemiological studies that allow a genetic analysis of viruses to identify infection paths. However, L-type and S-type viruses, which are known to have differences in infection capacity and fatality rate, were also detected, but there were limitations to give clinical significance.
The research team is also analyzing ribonucleic acid (RNA) transcripts that the virus produces after infiltrating into host cells, and more detailed information will be released soon through scientific papers.
Doctor Lee Back-seung of CancerRop, an immunology expert, explained that the Covid-19 virus could correct mutations during RNA genome replication, unlike other RNA-dependent RNA polymerase viruses such as influenza virus.
Myongji Hospital provided samples and clinical information, and the KCDC cultured the virus in the study conducted by the KCDC’s Center for Infectious Disease Research, Myongji Hospital, and CancerRop.
CancerRop, an affiliate of Myongjin Hospital and Covid-19 real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction kit developer, sequenced the virus. The joint study is an exemplary case of multidisciplinary collaborative research of public institutions, private hospitals, and bio companies.
Myongji Hospital is also conducting two other studies in collaboration with the KCDC, including a prospective clinical cohort study to secure a base for the international clinical collaboration of Covid-19 and a clinical big data analysis platform based on the clinical characteristics of Covid-19.
“The study was intended to understand the mutations of the virus and to seek new ways of an epidemiological investigation by providing additional information about the Covid-19 virus genome,” Myongji Hospital Professor Choi Kang-won said. “We expect the study will help to develop vaccines and treatments for Covid-19.”
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