Mutation of Coronavirus: Allows Virus to More Easily Enter Cells


Health Editor’s Note: Cell mutations (little changes in the structure and or abilities of the cell) happen all the time in our bodies, healthy and otherwise. A cell that has less functions available to it, will be a target for mutations. When the cell structure is not cluttered with devices it can change more easily and survive those changes. Viruses do not have the ability to even reproduce themselves.  Thus, they hijack other cells and use those cells to make more of themselves/replicate. A virus can mutate quite easily.

What has been found with novel coronavirus 2019 is that from the time its genetic make-up was first evaluated, it has mutated and that mutation has give it a greater power to enter human cells.  This is about the worst mutation possible for humans, but the best for the coronavirus because these particular mutations help it to carry out its business of living.   

Does this particular mutation make this virus more easy to catch and spread? While it is early days to understand what this mutation of coronavirus means, this article gives a very good explanation of how coronavirus works and how it is so good at spreading from human to human, making us sick, and sometimes killing us…..Carol

This coronavirus mutation has taken over the world. Scientists are trying to understand why.

by Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach/The Washington Post

When the first coronavirus cases in Chicago appeared in January, they bore the same genetic signatures as a germ that emerged in China weeks before.

But as Egon Ozer, an infectious-disease specialist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, examined the genetic structure of virus samples from local patients, he noticed something different.

A change in the virus was appearing again and again. This mutation, associated with outbreaks in Europe and New York, eventually took over the city. By May, it was found in 95 percent of all the genomes Ozer sequenced.

At a glance, the mutation seemed trivial. About 1,300 amino acids serve as building blocks for a protein on the surface of the virus. In the mutant virus, the genetic instructions for just one of those amino acids — number 614 — switched in the new variant from a “D” (shorthand for aspartic acid) to a “G” (short for glycine).

But the location was significant, because the switch occurred in the part of the genome that codes for the all-important “spike protein” — the protruding structure that gives the coronavirus its crownlike profile and allows it to enter human cells the way a burglar picks a lock.

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