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Global dispersal and increasing frequency of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein variant D614G are suggestive of a selective advantage but may also be due to a random founder effect. We investigate the hypothesis for positive selection of spike D614G in the United Kingdom using more than 25,000 whole genome SARS-CoV-2 sequences. Despite the availability of a large dataset, well represented by both spike 614 variants, not all approaches showed a conclusive signal of positive selection. Population genetic analysis indicates that 614G increases in frequency relative to 614D in a manner consistent with a selective advantage. We do not find any indication that patients infected with the spike 614G variant have higher COVID-19 mortality or clinical severity, but 614G is associated with higher viral load and younger age of patients. Significant differences in growth and size of 614G phylogenetic clusters indicate a need for continued study of this variant.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.cell.2020.11.020

Type

Journal article

Journal

Cell

Publication Date

07/01/2021

Volume

184

Pages

64 - 75.e11

Keywords

COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, epidemiology, evolution, founder effect, spike, Amino Acid Substitution, Aspartic Acid, COVID-19, Genome, Viral, Glycine, Humans, Mutation, SARS-CoV-2, Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus, United Kingdom, Virulence, Whole Genome Sequencing