Sallam M, Ababneh NA, Dababseh D, Bakri FG, Mahafzah A
Heliyon 7 (1) e06035 [2021-01-00; online 2021-01-20]
Phylogeny construction can help to reveal evolutionary relatedness among molecular sequences. The spike ( S) gene of SARS-CoV-2 is the subject of an immune selective pressure which increases the variability in such region. This study aimed to identify mutations in the S gene among SARS-CoV-2 sequences collected in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), focusing on the D614G mutation, that has a presumed fitness advantage. Another aim was to analyze the S gene sequences phylogenetically. The SARS-CoV-2 S gene sequences collected in the MENA were retrieved from the GISAID public database, together with its metadata. Mutation analysis was conducted in Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis software. Phylogenetic analysis was done using maximum likelihood (ML) and Bayesian methods. A total of 553 MENA sequences were analyzed and the most frequent S gene mutations included: D614G = 435, Q677H = 8, and V6F = 5. A significant increase in the proportion of D614G was noticed from (63.0%) in February 2020, to (98.5%) in June 2020 (p < 0.001). Two large phylogenetic clusters were identified via ML analysis, which showed an evidence of inter-country mixing of sequences, which dated back to February 8, 2020 and March 15, 2020 (median estimates). The mean evolutionary rate for SARS-CoV-2 was about 6.5 × 10-3 substitutions/site/year based on large clusters' Bayesian analyses. The D614G mutation appeared to be taking over the COVID-19 infections in the MENA. Bayesian analysis suggested that SARS-CoV-2 might have been circulating in MENA earlier than previously reported.