A group of researchers from the University of Bologna's Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology recently analyzed more than a million SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences, an analysis that resulted in the detection of a new COVID-19 Mexican variant spreading not just in Mexico but is also found in Europe.

A SciTechDaily report said their study showed the new strain with the scientific name, T478K. Like other strains, the new COVID-19 Mexican variant presents a mutation in the Spike protein, allowing coronaviruses to attach to and enter the targeted cells.

This strain has been growingly spreading among people in North America, specifically in Mexico. At present, this new variant comprises more than 60 percent of the viruses that exist in the place.

According to the study coordinator Federico Giorgi, also a professor at the Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology of the University of Bologna, the rate and speed of the spread "recall those British variants."

The Spike protein's mutation, he added, is structurally situated in the area of interaction with human receptor ACE2. Coronaviruses are attaching to this receptor to infect cells, thereby spreading the contagion with more efficiency.

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Science Times - New COVID-19 Mexican Variant Detected, Increasingly Spreads Across North America
(Photo: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on Wikimedia Commons)
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.


The New T478K Variant

The scientists started from the analysis of nearly 1.2 million sequenced samples of the SARS-CoV-2 genome detected in the international databases until April this year.

The new T478K variant was identified in 11435 samples. This is twice the number of samples that presented a similar strain just one month earlier. Such a rise since the start of this year alarmed the scientists.

The New COVID-19 Mexican variant, which, as reported in News-Medical.net, is spreading evenly across male and female individuals, as well as age ranges. This variant represents about 52.8 percent of all sequenced coronaviruses in Mexico, while in the United States, it represents just 2.7 percent of the sequenced specimens.

As worries Europe, this new variant has weakly spread in Sweden, Germany, and Switzerland. And in Italy, it is nearly non-existent, with just four cases reported.

Mutation Characterizing the New Strain

The mutation that characterizes this new strain is located in an area of the Spike protein that is accountable for the interaction with the human receptor ACE2, the mechanism that enables coronaviruses to access the cells.

Similar mutations are common to all strains that have been the center of attention in the previous months. Indeed, recent coronavirus strains stand out for their high contagion rates, making them pervasive in many parts of the world.

Scientists tested the T478K Spike protein's action within silico simulations and discovered that this mutated protein could modify the superficial electrostatic charge.

As a result, it can alter the interaction with the ACE2 human protein and the antibodies of the immune system, and therefore hinder the efficiency of the drug.

Giving credit to the amount of data available in international databases, Giorgi said they could hold nearly real-time control over the situation by monitoring the transmission of COVID-19 variants across various geographical areas.

Keeping this effort in the months ahead, he added, will be crucial to act promptly along with efficient means. Preliminary report on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Spike mutation T478K, is the study's title published in the Journal of Medical Virology.

Related information is shown on MedCram's YouTube video below:

 

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