Occasional zoonotic viral attacks on immunologically naive populations result in massive death tolls that are capable of threatening human survival. Currently, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the infectious agent that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19), has spread from its epicenter in Wuhan China to all parts of the globe. Real-time mapping of new infections across the globe has revealed that variable transmission patterns and pathogenicity are associated with differences in SARS-CoV-2 lineages, clades, and strains. Thus, we reviewed how changes in the SARS-CoV-2 genome and its structural architecture affect viral replication, immune evasion, and transmission within different human populations. We also looked at which immune dominant regions of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses are recognized by Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC)/Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) genes and how this could impact on subsequent disease pathogenesis. Efforts were also placed on understanding immunological changes that occur when exposed individuals either remain asymptomatic or fail to control the virus and later develop systemic complications. Published autopsy studies that reveal alterations in the lung immune microenvironment, morphological, and pathological changes are also explored within the context of the review. Understanding the true correlates of protection and determining how constant virus evolution impacts on host-pathogen interactions could help identify which populations are at high risk and later inform future vaccine and therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1369-1383
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • COVID-19
  • HLA
  • MHC
  • Pathogenesis
  • SARS-COV-2
  • Virus evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery
  • Genetics(clinical)


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