Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is conducting the largest children’s genetic study on COVID-19 to date

Research indicates a possible link between SARS-CoV-2 mutations and disease severity

When it comes to children, it has become clear that COVID-19 affects them more than was initially recognized. However, there is relatively little information about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease, in children. Scientists at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles just published the largest study on COVID-19 for children to date, indicating, for the first time, a possible link between specific viral mutations and disease severity.

Covid-19 disease is not a hereditary disease, but the genetic factors of SARS-Covid-2 virus play an important role in its spread. Mutations – errors in the virus’ genome as it replicates – can affect how the virus is transmitted, and they may play a role in disease severity. Understanding these links is critical to combating this pandemic.

“SARS-CoV-2 is not genetically stable,” says Xiaowu Gai, PhD, director of bioinformatics at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. “We tend to refer to” virus “, but when we think of the viral genome, it is not a single, fixed virus but, in fact, a set of genetic changes in all viruses inside an infected patient.”

Most of the mutations that SARS-CoV-2 goes through are insignificant or can weaken them, according to Dr. Jay, however, some mutations can alter the course of the epidemic. For example, a mutation called D614G in the so-called virus spike protein may increase the transmissibility from person to person. At the start of the epidemic, the D614G mutation represented a small percentage of SARS-CoV-2 samples, but has since grown so much that this version of the virus has taken over.

Now, Dr. Jay says, nearly every sample they serial has this mutation. “What we do not know is whether this and other mutations affect the severity of the disease in a patient,” he says. “This is what we are trying to discover.” And for good reason – if doctors can predict which patients are most at risk of developing severe disease, life-saving treatments can be given sooner.

But there are few published genetic studies, and when it comes to understanding how the virus affects children, the data is thinner. “There is really a lack of genomic studies for children for SARS-CoV-2,” says Jennifer Dean Bard, PhD, director of the Clinical Microbiology and Virology Laboratory at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. “We are trying to change that.”

Drs Jay and Dean Bard have worked as part of a multidisciplinary team in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine to genetically sequence every COVID-19 positive sample they receive, placing CHLA at the forefront of pediatric viral genomic studies. Their efforts have yielded the largest set of clinically related children’s genomic data published to date for SARS-CoV-2. Besides sequencing samples, scientists are looking at how subsets of the virus (called clades) affect children differently.

Dr Dean Bard says, “This study is very unique, because in addition to having this large set of genomic data, we’re really looking at what all this means: How do we track this virus? How does genomics relate to clinical outcomes? These types of studies aren’t even available.” Now, so we are trying to fill this need. “

One trend that emerged from the study was that a specific set of mutations, called clade 20C, were more common in patients with the most severe symptoms of COVID-19. This study is the first of its kind to examine these potential links.

“Larger studies will be needed to confirm that a single subgroup of SARS-CoV-2 leads to a worse prognosis,” says Dr. Jay, but this study is a clear example that highlights the importance of genetic screening for the virus. These are the puzzle pieces that will help us overcome this epidemic. “


Dr.. Dean Bard is the lead author of the publication. Additional authors are: Utsav Pandey, PhD, and Rebecca Yee, PhD (co-authored first); Lichuang Xin, PhD; Alexander Judkins, MD; Moiz Bootwalla, MS; Alex Ryutov, PhD, Dennis Maglinte, MS, Dejerianne Ostrow, PhD, Mimi Precit, PhD; Jacqueline Bigel, PhD, Geoffrey Bender, MD, and Xiao Jay, PhD.

About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Founded in 1901, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is the highest-grossing children’s hospital in California and 5th in the United States on the US News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals honor list. US News ranked Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in all ten specialty categories. Clinical care at the hospital is led by physicians who are faculty members of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California through an affiliation dating back to 1932. The hospital also runs the largest residential training program for children at a stand-alone children’s hospital in the western United States. The Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is home to all basic, translational, clinical and community research being conducted in the hospital, allowing proven discoveries to reach patients quickly. Our mission: to create hope and build a healthier future. To find out more, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, And visit our blog at

Media contact
Melinda Smith
[email protected]http: // dx.Resonate.Deer /10.1093 /ofid /ofaa551

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