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Continued uncontrolled transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in many parts of the world is creating conditions for substantial evolutionary changes to the virus1,2. Here we describe a newly arisen lineage of SARS-CoV-2 (designated 501Y.V2; also known as B.1.351 or 20H) that is defined by eight mutations in the spike protein, including three substitutions (K417N, E484K and N501Y) at residues in its receptor-binding domain that may have functional importance3-5. This lineage was identified in South Africa after the first wave of the epidemic in a severely affected metropolitan area (Nelson Mandela Bay) that is located on the coast of the Eastern Cape province. This lineage spread rapidly, and became dominant in Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces within weeks. Although the full import of the mutations is yet to be determined, the genomic data-which show rapid expansion and displacement of other lineages in several regions-suggest that this lineage is associated with a selection advantage that most plausibly results from increased transmissibility or immune escape6-8.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





438 - 443


COVID-19, DNA Mutational Analysis, Evolution, Molecular, Genetic Fitness, Humans, Immune Evasion, Models, Molecular, Mutation, Phylogeny, Phylogeography, SARS-CoV-2, Selection, Genetic, South Africa, Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus, Time Factors