eClinical Technology and Industy News

Solving a Genetic Mystery at the Heart of the COVID-19 Pandemic

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As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, scientists are still working to understand how the SARS-CoV-2 strain evolved, and how it became so much more dangerous than other coronaviruses, which humans have been living alongside for millennia.

Virologists and epidemiologists worldwide have speculated for months that a protein called ORF8 likely holds the answer, and a recent study by Berkeley Lab scientists has helped confirm this hypothesis.

In a paper published in mBio, lead author Russell Neches and his colleagues show that ORF8 evolved from another coronavirus protein called ORF7a, and that both proteins have folds similar to that of a human antibody. This finding helps to explain how the virus avoids immune detection and is able to escalate into a severe infection in some hosts.

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