In Maharashtra, Covid Mutation Raises Infectivity Concerns
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One of the two mutations feared to have spread rapidly in Maharashtra may have the ability to make the Sars-Cov-2 more adept at infecting humans, improve its ability to multiply within a host, and possibly escape a more complex part of the human immune response, a new study suggests.

The findings could explain the surge of cases in the western state. The findings relate to the mutation known as L452R, which is one of the two double mutations the Indian government said was detected in large numbers in parts of Maharashtra. The team has found the L452R mutation can “potentially increase viral infectivity” and escape from what is known as HLA-A24-restricted immunity, which refers to action by adaptive immunity in the human body.

The study, based on laboratory experiments, showed L452R conferred multiple properties: it appeared to make the S protein more stable, it enhanced affinity to ACE2, and it seemed to enhance how the virus multiplied. Immune response to a pathogen such as Sars-Cov-2 typically has multiple levels, including antibodies that bind to the virus and stop it from infecting people and killer T cells that destroy infected cells.

The HLA-restricted immunity influences the mechanism of killer T cells, which may be crucial since research has separately established a link between the timing and nature of immune response with how severe the disease becomes for someone: often, those with serious or fatal Covid-19 have a delayed immune response.

“Therefore, it is conceivable to assume that the HLA-restricted CTLs (cytotoxic T cells, or killer T cells) play crucial roles in controlling SARS-CoV-2 infections and Covid-19 disorders,” the authors note in their study. It is the first time a widely spreading mutation has been shown to demonstrate that characteristic. To be sure, how the variant in Maharashtra behaves will require tests and epidemiological analysis involving that variant itself.

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