SARS-CoV-2 genotype-dependent pathogenesis and transmission
As the SARS-CoV-2 virus circulates in the Canadian population, it is important to monitor if and how the virus changes. To do this, there is a new national consortium called the Canadian COVID‑19 Genomics (CanCOGeN) network to determine the genetic code of the viruses infecting Canadians. Most changes in viral sequence will serve as markers but won’t affect the virulence or transmission of the virus. However, some mutations will change how the virus causes disease, transmits or responds to antivirals and vaccines. We have isolated the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the high containment laboratory at the University of Toronto. We would continue to work on viruses from patients to rapidly determine whether there are differences in disease severity and transmission if the virus itself changed, particularly if this affects response to vaccines and antivirals. We will establish small mammal infection and transmission models for SARS-CoV-2 to answer critical questions as they relate to viral disease and spread. We are also building a repository of viruses to support other researchers and innovators in Canada. This work will directly impact individual patient care and public health as the pandemic unfolds with unmitigated person-to-person transmission in the absence of medical counter measures such as vaccines and therapeutics, and remains important as these are put into broad use to ensure that these methods remain safe and effective.