Quebec researchers have discovered that a mutation in a coronavirus protein [sciencedaily.com] slows the spread of the virus in the central nervous system and reduces its neurovirulence. It is the first time that this phenomenon has been observed in the coronavirus family, which is responsible for one-third of common colds and is also suspected of being associated with the development or aggravation of neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and encephalitis. The discovery, which has just been published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, was achieved in the Laboratory of Neuroimmunovirology at INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier.
In analyzing more than 60 human respiratory tract samples from patients infected by the human coronavirus, researchers discovered an important mutation in the S protein that modifies the virus capacity to infect nerve cells. The mutation is associated with the degree of viral virulence.