SARS-CoV-2 mortality has been extensively studied in relationship to a patient's predisposition to the disease. However, how sequence variations in the SARS-CoV-2 genome affect mortality is not understood. To address this issue, we used a whole-genome sequencing ( WGS MESHD
) association study to directly link death of SARS-CoV-2 patients with sequence variation in the viral genome. Specifically, we analyzed 3,626 single stranded RNA-genomes of SARS-CoV-2 patients in the GISAID database (Elbe and Buckland-Merrett, 2017; Shu and McCauley, 2017) with reported patient's health status from COVID-19 MESHD
, i.e. deceased versus non-deceased. In total, evaluating 28,492 loci of the viral genome for association with patient/host mortality, two loci, 12,053bp and 25,088bp, achieved genome-wide significance (p-values of 1.24e-12, and 1.24e-26, respectively). Mutations at 25,088bp occur in the S2 subunit of the SARS-CoV-2 spike PROTEIN
protein, which plays a key role in viral entry of target host cells. Additionally, mutations at 12,053bp are within the ORF1ab PROTEIN
gene, in a region encoding for the protein nsp7, which is necessary to form the RNA polymerase complex responsible for viral replication and transcription. Both mutations altered amino acid coding sequences, potentially imposing structural changes that could enhance viral infectivity and symptom severity, and may be important to consider as targets for therapeutic development.