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SARS-CoV-2 Worldwide Replication Drives Rapid Rise and Selection of Mutations across the Viral Genome: A Time-Course Study - Potential Challenge for Vaccines and Therapies

Scientists and the public were alarmed at the first large viral variant of SARS-CoV2 reported in December 2020. We have followed the time course of emerging viral mutants and variants during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in ten countries on four continents. We examined > 383.500 complete SARS-CoV-2 nucleotide sequences in GISAID, (Global Initiative of Sharing All Influenza Data) with sampling dates extending until April 05, 2021. These sequences originated from ten different countries: United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, USA, India, Russia, France, Spain, Germany, and China. Among the ~180 novel mutations, some previously reported mutations waned and some of them increased in prevalence over time. VUI2012/01 (B.1.1.7) and 501Y.V2 (B.1.351), the so-called UK and South Africa variants, respectively, and two variants from Brazil, 484K.V2, now called P.1 and P.2, increased in prevalence. Despite lockdowns, worldwide active replication in genetically and socio-economically diverse populations facilitated selection of new mutations. The data on mutant and variant SARS-CoV-2 strains provided here comprise a global resource for easy access to the myriad mutations and variants detected to date globally. Rapidly evolving new variant and mutant strains might give rise to escape variants, capable of limiting the efficacy of vaccines, therapies, and diagnostic tests.

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