Animal Reservoirs Of Covid-19 May Trigger New Rounds Of Human Disease

New variants of SARS-CoV-2 are lurking below the streets of New York City. A recent paper by Smyth et al. extracted SARS-CoV-2 samples from fourteen wastewater treatment plants in the City. The team developed methods to detect mutations in a critical region of the genome,  the receptor-binding domain of the Spike protein.

As expected, they found a number of different Covid-19 variants in their samples, including Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma. They also found four distinct “cryptic” lineages, WNY1, 2, 3, and 4, from three of the wastewater sites. These four cryptic variants yield surprising and troubling results. The receptor-binding domain RNA extracted from the samples contained up to 29 mutations in the four detected variants, some previously observed in the variants of concern or interest and others unique to these samples. Figure 1 illustrates the overlap of the mutations found in many other variants. Many of the variants unique to the sewershed variants are extraordinarily rare among the 3.5 million sequences found in the GISAID SARS-CoV-2 database.

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© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.