The seasonal behaviour of COVID-19 and its galectin-like culprit of the viral spike

Kelsey Caetano-Anollés, Nicolas Hernandez, Fizza Mughal, Tre Tomaszewski, Gustavo Caetano-Anollés

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Seasonal behaviour is an attribute of many viral diseases. Like other ‘winter’ RNA viruses, infections caused by the causative agent of COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, appear to exhibit significant seasonal changes. Here we discuss the seasonal behaviour of COVID-19, emerging viral phenotypes, viral evolution, and how the mutational landscape of the virus affects the seasonal attributes of the disease. We propose that the multiple seasonal drivers behind infectious disease spread (and the spread of COVID-19 specifically) are in ‘trade-off’ relationships and can be better described within a framework of a ‘triangle of viral persistence’ modulated by the environment, physiology, and behaviour. This ‘trade-off’ exists as one trait cannot increase without a decrease in another. We also propose that molecular components of the virus can act as sensors of environment and physiology, and could represent molecular culprits of seasonality. We searched for flexible protein structures capable of being modulated by the environment and identified a galectin-like fold within the N-terminal domain of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 as a potential candidate. Tracking the prevalence of mutations in this structure resulted in the identification of a hemisphere-dependent seasonal pattern driven by mutational bursts. We propose that the galectin-like structure is a frequent target of mutations because it helps the virus evade or modulate the physiological responses of the host to further its spread and survival. The flexible regions of the N-terminal domain should now become a focus for mitigation through vaccines and therapeutics and for prediction and informed public health decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCovid-19: Biomedical Perspectives
Subtitle of host publicationBiomedical Perspectives
EditorsCharles S Pavia, Voker Gurtler
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages55
ISBN (Print)9780323850612
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NameMethods in Microbiology
ISSN (Print)0580-9517


  • Epidemic calendar
  • Mutation
  • N-terminal domain
  • Proteome
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Seasonality
  • Variants
  • COVID-19

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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