Scientists have discovered a previously unknown mechanism for the emergence of new strains of SARS-CoV-2

Skoltech scientists have discovered a previously unknown mechanism for the emergence of coronavirus mutations, through which new dangerous strains of SARS-CoV-2 can arise.

The study showed that the causative agent of COVID-19, adapting to the immunity of the host, is able to acquire changes that allow it to elude human T-lymphocytes (a type of immune cell). The immune system fights infection by producing antibodies and T-lymphocytes.

How SARS-CoV-2 adapts to the first variant is known to scientists quite well, and how to avoid cellular defenses has been little studied. To understand them, experts examined the case of a patient whose body fought the infection for almost a year.

“We decided to check whether the virus develops protection against T-lymphocytes, and for this we studied the case of a long covid: the patient had a coronavirus infection for 318 days. It is important to note that in parallel she received anti-cancer therapy, the side effect of which is the suppression of antibody synthesis. This allowed us to observe the virus, which was left alone with T-lymphocytes,” said Georgy Bazykin, head of the study, Skoltech professor.

The analysis of scientists showed that during a long infection, the coronavirus really accumulated just such mutations that prevented the patient’s T-lymphocytes from recognizing it.

A more detailed analysis showed that the coronavirus thus acquired resistance not only to the protective cells of the studied patient, it also learned to partially evade the T-cell response in the human population as a whole.

As scientists have found, the observed mutations successfully mask the virus from a number of antigen-presenting molecules common in humans. Scientists are worried that a new strain that has appeared in the body of a person with a weakened immune system will be able to break free and infect a large number of people.

Read more in the Izvestia article:

Hiding will show: scientists have discovered a new mechanism of coronavirus mutation

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