Children's Hospital Los Angeles conducts large-scale pediatric COVID-19 genomic study
Scientists at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) published a new large-scale pediatric novel coronavirus (COVID-19) study, suggesting a possible link between specific viral mutations and severity of the disease.
For the study, researchers at the CHLA worked to genetically sequence COVID-19-positive samples, which resulted in a large pediatric genomic database for SARS-CoV-2. Beyond sequencing the samples, the scientists are investigating how subgroups of the virus could affect children differently.
COVID-19 is not a genetic disease, but genetics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus play an important role in its spread, the researchers said. Mutations can affect how the virus transmits and may play a role in disease severity. Understanding these links is critical to battling this pandemic, according to the researchers.
Most of the mutations the SARS-CoV-2 virus undergoes are insignificant or can weaken it, the researchers said, however, some mutations could change the course of the pandemic. For example, a mutation called D614G in what is called the Spike protein of the virus may contribute to increased transmissibility from person to person. At the beginning of the pandemic, the D614G mutation represented a small percentage of SARS-CoV-2 samples, but it has since increased so much that this version of the virus has taken over, the researchers said.
There are few genetic studies published, and when it comes to understanding how the virus affects children, the data are even thinner, according to the study.
One of the trends to emerge from the study is that a certain grouping of mutations, called clade 20C, were more commonly seen in patients with the most severe COVID-19 symptoms, the study said.
"This study is very unique because in addition to having this large pool of genomic data, we're really looking at what it all means: How can we trace this virus? How do the genomics correlate with clinical outcomes?” said Jennifer Dien Bard, PhD, study co-author and director of the Clinical Microbiology and Virology Laboratory at CHLA, in a statement. “These kinds of studies just aren't out there yet, so we're trying to fill that need.”
One of the trends to emerge from the study is that a certain grouping of mutations, called clade 20C, were more commonly seen in patients with the most severe COVID-19 symptoms.
"Larger studies will be required to confirm that one subgroup of SARS-CoV-2 leads to worse prognosis," said Xiaowu Gai, PhD, study co-author and director of Bioinformatics at CHLA, in a statement. “This study is a clear example highlighting the importance of examining the genetics of the virus. These are the puzzle pieces that will help us get ahead of this pandemic."