COVID-19 News and announcements collection on the new mutant variants

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COVID-19 News and announcements collection on the new mutant variants of the SARS-CoV-2 (2019nCoV) virus

- PHE investigating a novel variant of COVID-19
- Rapid evaluation confirms lateral flow devices effective in detecting new COVID-19 variant
- Confirmed cases of COVID-19 variant from South Africa identified in UK
- Statement from Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, about new strain of COVID-19
- NERVTAG statements on COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2)
    • NERVTAG/SPI-M Extraordinary meetingon SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern 202012/01 (variant B.1.1.7)
    • NERVTAG meetingon SARS-CoV-2 variant under investigation VUI-202012/01
    • CPR as an AGP - Evidence review and NERVTAG consensus

About COVID-19 Pandemic and SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a novel viral pneumonia caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). First discovered in Wuhan, a city in Hubei province of China, COVID-19 has already broken out throughout the world and posed a great threat to the public health, especially in Europe and North America now. Additionally, person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 disease is reported to be extremely rapid [158-160]. To date, more than one million cases were infected with COVID-19 and over 55,000 deaths occurred. Therefore, it is really urgent and noteworthy to develop the vaccines specific to COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2.

Belonging to the Betacoronavirus genus family, SARS-CoV-2 is 60~200nm in diameter and encapsidates a large positive-sense, single-stranded RNA virus (26-32kb) with many spikes on the virus capsid (Fig. 17A). The RNA genome of SARS-CoV-2 encodes several accessory proteins and structural proteins, such as nucleocapsid (N) protein, envelope (E) protein, membrane (M) protein, and spike (S) protein (Fig. 10B). Although the detailed mechanism of SARS-CoV-2 infection has not been clearly illuminated, several studies demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 enters human cells via utilizing spike (S) protein to bind to the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE2) on the surface of target cell [161, 162]. Picture loading failed.
Figure S1. SARS-CoV-2 capsid structure and genome map. (A) Three-dimensional structure diagram of SARS-CoV-2. (B) Genome organization of SARS-CoV-2 [158]. ORF: open reading frame. E: envelope. M: membrane. N: nucleocapsid. HR1: heptad repeat 1. HR2: heptad repeat 2. SP: signal peptide. NTD: N-terminal domain. RBD: receptor binding domain. S: spike. S1: subunit 1. S2: subunit 2. TM: transmembrane domain. Since the genome sequences of SARS-CoV were discovered and reported (, a large number of pharmaceutical enterprises and research organizations are sparing all efforts to the vaccine development. Different companies utilize different targets and antigen epitopes. Some of the advances are listed in the following Table 10 (from WHO), and most of them focus on viral vector-based vaccines (replicating or non-replicating viral vector-based vaccines), recombinant protein (Spike), and nucleic acid-based vaccines. To date, two COVID-19 vaccines have entered Phase I clinical testing to assess the safety and potency of vaccines. One is mRNA-1273, was developed by Moderna Therapeutics, encoding a prefusion-stabilized form of Spike (S) protein [163] ( Another vaccine is recombinant protein of SARS-CoV-2 antigen, developed by Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, Institute of Military Medicine. It was predicted that these vaccines can be applied in clinics in a large scale as early as 2021 if they can successfully pass the clinical testing. Although there is a long way for theses vaccines to be applied for prevention and therapy of COVID-19, they indeed bring great hope and light to people all over the world.

1. 2 Korber, B. et al. Spike mutation pipeline reveals the emergence of a more transmissible form of SARS-CoV-2. bioRxiv Preprint., doi:10.1101/2020.04.29.069054 (2020). 2. Investigation of novel SARS-COV-2 variant. Public health England. 3. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Rapid increase of a SARS-CoV-2 variant with multiple spike protein mutations observed in the United Kingdom – 20 December 2020.ECDC: Stockholm; 2020. 4. Li, G. & De Clercq, E. Therapeutic options for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, doi:10.1038/d41573-020-00016-0 (2020). 5. Haque, A. & Pant, A. B. Efforts at COVID-19 Vaccine Development: Challenges and Successes. Vaccines 8, doi:10.3390/vaccines8040739 (2020). 6. Dong, Y. et al. A systematic review of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates. Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy 5, doi:10.1038/s41392-020-00352-y (2020). 7. Andrew Rambaut1, N. L., Oliver Pybus, Wendy Barclay, Jeff Barrett5, Alesandro Carabelli6, Tom Connor, Tom Peacock, David L Robertson8, Erik Volz, . Preliminary genomic characterisation of an emergent SARS-CoV-2 lineage in the UK defined by a novel set of spike mutations. (2020). 8. Rapid increase of a SARS-CoV-2 variant with multiple spike protein mutations observed in the United Kingdom. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control: Publications & data. 9. Zhang, L. et al. SARS-CoV-2 RNA reverse-transcribed and integrated into the human genome. bioRxiv Preprint. , doi:10.1101/2020.12.12.422516 (2020).

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