The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an urgent need to uncover the underlying biology of this devastating disease. Though RNA viruses mutate more rapidly than DNA viruses, there are a relatively small number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that differentiate the main SARS-CoV-2 lineages that have spread throughout the world. In this study, we investigated 129 RNA-seq data sets and 6928 consensus genomes to contrast the intra-host and inter-host diversity of SARS-CoV-2. Our analyses yielded three major observations. First, the mutational profile of SARS-CoV-2 highlights intra-host single nucleotide variant (iSNV) and SNP similarity, albeit with differences in C > U changes. Second, iSNV and SNP patterns in SARS-CoV-2 are more similar to MERS-CoV than SARS-CoV-1. Third, a significant fraction of insertions and deletions contribute to the genetic diversity of SARS-CoV-2. Altogether, our findings provide insight into SARS-CoV-2 genomic diversity, inform the design of detection tests, and highlight the potential of iSNVs for tracking the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
© 2021 Sapoval et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.