Emergence, evolution, and vaccine production approaches of SARS-CoV-2 virus: Benefits of getting vaccinated and common questions

Saudi J Biol Sci. 2022 Apr;29(4):1981-1997. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2021.12.020. Epub 2021 Dec 13.


The emergence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Wuhan city, China at the end of 2019 made it urgent to identify the origin of the causal pathogen and its molecular evolution, to appropriately design an effective vaccine. This study analyzes the evolutionary background of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-2) in accordance with its close relative SARS-CoV (SARS-1), which was emerged in 2002. A comparative genomic and proteomic study was conducted on SARS-2, SARS-1, and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), which was emerged in 2012. In silico analysis inferred the genetic variability among the tested viruses. The SARS-1 genome harbored 11 genes encoding 12 proteins, while SARS-2 genome contained only 10 genes encoding for 10 proteins. MERS genome contained 11 genes encoding 11 proteins. The analysis also revealed a slight variation in the whole genome size of SARS-2 comparing to its siblings resulting from sequential insertions and deletions (indels) throughout the viral genome particularly ORF1AB, spike, ORF10 and ORF8. The effective indels were observed in the gene encoding the spike protein that is responsible for viral attachment to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) cell receptor and initiating infection. These indels are responsible for the newly emerging COVID-19 variants αCoV, βCoV, γCoV and δCoV. Nowadays, few effective COVID-19 vaccines developed based on spike (S) glycoprotein were approved and become available worldwide. Currently available vaccines can relatively prevent the spread of COVID-19 and suppress the disease. The traditional (killed or attenuated virus vaccine and antibody-based vaccine) and innovated vaccine production technologies (RNA- and DNA-based vaccines and viral vectors) are summarized in this review. We finally highlight the most common questions related to COVID-19 disease and the benefits of getting vaccinated.

Keywords: (E), envelope; (M), membrane; (N), nucleocapsid; (S), Spike; ACE2, Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2; BLAST, Basic Local Alignment Search Tool; CD4, Helper T lymphocytes express cluster determinant 4; CD8, cytotoxic T cells express cluster determinant 8; CDC, Centers of Disease Control; COVID-19; COVID-19, Corona Virus Disease 2019; Coronavirus; Del, Deletion; Genomics; Ins, Insertion; MDCK, Madin-Darby Canine Kidney; MERS-CoV, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus; NCBI, National Center for Biotechnology Information; NJ, neighbor-joining; NSP, nonstructural protein; NTD,  N-Terminal Domain; ORF, Open Reading Frame; PCR, polymerase chain reaction; PID, percentage identity; Proteomics; RBD, receptor binding domain; SARS-COV-2; SARS-CoV-1, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 1; SARS-CoV-2, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2; UTR, Untranslated region; VOC, variants of concern; Vaccines; WHO, World Health Organization; mAbs, monoclonal antibodies.

Publication types

  • Review