Genomic Variations in SARS-CoV-2 Genomes From Gujarat: Underlying Role of Variants in Disease Epidemiology

Front Genet. 2021 Mar 19;12:586569. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2021.586569. eCollection 2021.


Humanity has seen numerous pandemics during its course of evolution. The list includes several incidents from the past, such as measles, Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), etc. The latest edition to this is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). As of August 18, 2020, COVID-19 has affected over 21 million people from 180 + countries with 0.7 million deaths across the globe. Genomic technologies have enabled us to understand the genomic constitution of pathogens, their virulence, evolution, and rate of mutation, etc. To date, more than 83,000 viral genomes have been deposited in public repositories, such as GISAID and NCBI. While we are writing this, India is the third most affected country by COVID-19, with 2.7 million cases and > 53,000 deaths. Gujarat is the 11th highest affected state with a 3.48% death rate compared to the national average of 1.91%. In this study, a total of 502 SARS-CoV-2 genomes from Gujarat were sequenced and analyzed to understand its phylogenetic distribution and variants against global and national sequences. Further variants were analyzed from diseased and recovered patients from Gujarat and the world to understand its role in pathogenesis. Among the missense mutations present in the Gujarat SARS-CoV-2 genomes, C28854T (Ser194Leu) had an allele frequency of 47.62 and 7.25% in deceased patients from the Gujarat and global datasets, respectively. In contrast, the allele frequency of 35.16 and 3.20% was observed in recovered patients from the Gujarat and global datasets, respectively. It is a deleterious mutation present in the nucleocapsid (N) gene and is significantly associated with mortality in Gujarat patients with a p-value of 0.067 and in the global dataset with a p-value of 0.000924. The other deleterious variant identified in deceased patients from Gujarat (p-value of 0.355) and the world (p-value of 2.43E-06) is G25563T, which is located in Orf3a and plays a potential role in viral pathogenesis. SARS-CoV-2 genomes from Gujarat are forming distinct clusters under the GH clade of GISAID. This study will shed light on the viral haplotype in SARS-CoV-2 samples from Gujarat, India.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV); genomic surveillance; haplotyping; mutation analysis; viral epidemiology.