Bulletin of the WHO

Variant analysis of SARS-cov-2 genomes

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Objective To analyse genome variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). Methods Between 1 February and 1 May 2020, we downloaded 10 022 SARS CoV-2 genomes from four databases. The genomes were from infected patients in 68 countries. We identified variants by extracting pairwise alignment to the reference genome NC_045512, using the EMBOSS needle. Nucleotide variants in the coding regions were converted to corresponding encoded amino acid residues. For clade analysis, we used the open source software Bayesian evolutionary analysis by sampling trees, version 2.5. Findings We identified 5775 distinct genome variants, including 2969 missense mutations, 1965 synonymous mutations, 484 mutations in the non-coding regions, 142 non-coding deletions, 100 in-frame deletions, 66 non-coding insertions, 36 stop-gained variants, 11 frameshift deletions and two in-frame insertions. The most common variants were the synonymous 3037C > T (6334 samples), P4715L in the open reading frame 1ab (6319 samples) and D614G in the spike protein (6294 samples). We identified six major clades, (that is, basal, D614G, L84S, L3606F, D448del and G392D) and 14 subclades. Regarding the base changes, the C > T mutation was the most common with 1670 distinct variants. Conclusion We found that several variants of the SARS-CoV-2 genome exist and that the D614G clade has become the most common variant since December 2019. The evolutionary analysis indicated structured transmission, with the possibility of multiple introductions into the population.


02 Jun 2020


Bulletin of the WHO