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YJ Hou, S Chiba, P Halfmann, C Ehre, M Kuroda, KH Dinnon, SR Leist, A Schäfer, N Nakajima, K Takahashi, RE Lee, TM Mascenik, CE Edwards, LV Tse, RC Boucher, SH Randell, T Suzuki, LE Gralinski, Y Kawaoka and RS Baric
Abstract
The D614G substitution in the S protein is most prevalent SARS-CoV-2 strain circulating globally, but its effects in viral pathogenesis and transmission remain unclear. We engineered SARS-CoV-2 variants harboring the D614G substitution with or without nanoluciferase. The D614G variant replicates more efficiency in primary human proximal airway epithelial cells and is more fit than wildtype (WT) virus in competition studies. With similar morphology to the WT virion, the D614G virus is also more sensitive to SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies. Infection of human ACE2 transgenic mice and Syrian hamsters with the WT or D614G viruses produced similar titers in respiratory tissue and pulmonary disease. However, the D614G variant exhibited significantly faster droplet transmission between hamsters than the WT virus, early after infection. Our study demonstrated the SARS-CoV2 D614G substitution enhances infectivity, replication fitness, and early transmission.
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