Scientists are seeking answers to why SARS-CoV-2 variants are so transmissible and why they cause greater disease severity than the original strain. McGill’s Qian (Vivian) Liu, together with researchers from the University of British Columbia and the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, have launched a study to understand this question, investigating how SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins are organized and moved on the cell or virus surface by using single-molecule imaging technology.
Observing the behaviors of the spike protein and its receptors on a single-molecule level, they expect to learn why the spike proteins of the emerging variants are superior at infection, even in the presence of antibodies generated by patients and vaccinated people. “The knowledge gained from our study is expected to generate high-quality scientific data to accelerate the development of new prevention and treatment strategies to curb the spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants,” says Liu. The project, The Mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 Entry and the Transmission of Emerging Variants, is supported by CoVaRR-Net (Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network).