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Italy finds British mutation ‘sister’ coronavirus variant

A study has shown that both the Italian (N501T) and the British (N501Y) variant have a Spike protein mutation at the N501 position. Image: Callaghan O’Hare / Reuters

MILAN, JAN 14 (ANSA) – An Italian study published in the magazine “The Lancet” on Wednesday (13) showed that the variant of the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 isolated in the city of Brescia, in August 2020, has the same predecessor of the British mutation, but a different evolutionary road from March of the same year. Genetic research was led by the president of the Italian Society of Virology, Arnaldo Caruso, who is also professor of microbiology at the University of Brescia, and by the director of statistics medical and molecular epidemiology at the Campus Biomedical University of Rome, Massimo Ciccozzi.The study showed that both the Italian (N501T) and the British (N501Y) variant have a Spike protein mutation at position N501. But while the mutation detected in the UK replaces the original amino acid with tyrosine, the Italian strain has replaced it with a threonine – another type of amino acid. “These days, we are completing a study that will allow us to see what changes in the 3D structure of Spike protein, an important information also to understand if there will be consequences in the effectiveness of the vaccines “, explains Ciccozzi. To find out if the Italian variant also has a greater contagion capacity, as it happens with the British and South African strain, it will still be I have to wait until the end of January, when laboratory tests on the cells will be completed. “At the moment, we don’t know how much it has spread in Italy or whether there are other Italian variants in circulation because in our country, different from the United Kingdom and South Africa, there is no national surveillance system based on the sequencing of the viral genome “, points out the expert. The Brescia mutation was only located thanks to the samples that the group led by Caruso managed to obtain from a 59-year-old patient who had a persistent infection with the new coronavirus: examining the test done in August and then another one done in November, it appeared that the virus managed to make three mutations in that short period of time “It is plausible that patients who keep the virus in their bodies for long periods induce important mutations, due to the strong selective pressure exerted by the immune system. Also the researchers who isolated the variant in South Africa are following the same lead”, he concludes. Ciccozzi. (ANSA).

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