Long-term severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections in immunodeficient patients are an important source of variation for the virus but are understudied. Many case studies have been published which describe one or a small number of long-term infected individuals but no study has combined these sequences into a cohesive dataset. This work aims to rectify this and study the genomics of this patient group through a combination of literature searches as well as identifying new case series directly from the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) dataset. The spike gene receptor-binding domain and N-terminal domain (NTD) were identified as mutation hotspots. Numerous mutations associated with variants of concern were observed to emerge recurrently. Additionally a mutation in the envelope gene, T30I was determined to be the second most frequent recurrently occurring mutation arising in persistent infections. A high proportion of recurrent mutations in immunodeficient individuals are associated with ACE2 affinity, immune escape, or viral packaging optimisation.

There is an apparent selective pressure for mutations that aid cell–cell transmission within the host or persistence which are often different from mutations that aid inter-host transmission, although the fact that multiple recurrent de novo mutations are considered defining for variants of concern strongly indicates that this potential source of novel variants should not be discounted.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com

Cite as

Wilkinson, S., Richter, A., Casey, A., Osman, H., Mirza, J., Stockton, J., Quick, J., Ratcliffe, L., Sparks, N., Cumley, N., Poplawski, R., Nicholls, S., Kele, B., Harris, K., COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, Peacock, T. & Loman, N. 2022, 'Recurrent SARS-CoV-2 mutations in immunodeficient patients', Virus Evolution, 8(2), article no: veac050. https://doi.org/10.1093/ve/veac050

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Last updated: 14 June 2023
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