Rapid Evolution of SARS-CoV-2 Challenges Human Defense
Info about event
Virtual seminar by Carlos Duarte
The race between pathogens and their hosts is a major evolutionary driver, where both reshuffle their genomes to overcome and reorganize the defenses for infection, respectively. Evolutionary theory helps formulate predictions on the future evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV-2, which can be monitored through unprecedented real-time tracking of SARS-CoV-2 population genomics at the global scale. Here we quantify the accelerating evolution of SARS-CoV-2 by tracking the SARS-CoV-2 mutation globally, with a focus on the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) of the spike protein determining infection success. We estimate that the 562 million people that had been infected by May 22, 2021, produced up to 1021 copies of the virus, with one new RBD variant appearing for each 500,000 human infections leading to three new effective RBD variants produced daily. Doubling of the number of RBD variants every 107 days followed by selection of the most infective variants challenges our defenses and calls for a shift to anticipatory, rather than reactive tactics.