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1.
Nature ; 2022 Aug 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1991629

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant of concern spread globally, causing resurgences of COVID-19 worldwide1,2. Delta's emergence in the UK occurred on the background of a heterogeneous landscape of immunity and relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions. Here we analyse 52,992 virus genomes from England together with 93,649 global genomes to reconstruct the emergence of Delta, and quantify its introduction to and regional dissemination across England in the context of changing travel and social restrictions. Through analysis of human movement, contact tracing, and virus genomic data, we find that the geographic focus of Delta's expansion shifted from India to a more global pattern in early May 2021. In England, Delta lineages were introduced >1,000 times and spread nationally as non-pharmaceutical interventions were relaxed. We find that hotel quarantine for travellers reduced onward transmission from importations; however transmission chains that later dominated England's Delta wave were seeded before travel restrictions were introduced. Increasing inter-regional travel within England drove Delta's nationwide dissemination, with some cities receiving >2,000 observable lineage introductions from elsewhere. Subsequently, increased levels of local population mixing, not the number of importations, were associated with faster relative growth of Delta. Delta's invasion dynamics depended on spatial heterogeneity in contact patterns, and our findings will inform optimal spatial interventions to reduce transmission of current and future variant of concern, such as Omicron.

2.
Nat Med ; 2022 Jun 27.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1908212

ABSTRACT

Three lineages (BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3) of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Omicron variant of concern predominantly drove South Africa's fourth Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) wave. We have now identified two new lineages, BA.4 and BA.5, responsible for a fifth wave of infections. The spike proteins of BA.4 and BA.5 are identical, and similar to BA.2 except for the addition of 69-70 deletion (present in the Alpha variant and the BA.1 lineage), L452R (present in the Delta variant), F486V and the wild-type amino acid at Q493. The two lineages differ only outside of the spike region. The 69-70 deletion in spike allows these lineages to be identified by the proxy marker of S-gene target failure, on the background of variants not possessing this feature. BA.4 and BA.5 have rapidly replaced BA.2, reaching more than 50% of sequenced cases in South Africa by the first week of April 2022. Using a multinomial logistic regression model, we estimated growth advantages for BA.4 and BA.5 of 0.08 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.08-0.09) and 0.10 (95% CI: 0.09-0.11) per day, respectively, over BA.2 in South Africa. The continued discovery of genetically diverse Omicron lineages points to the hypothesis that a discrete reservoir, such as human chronic infections and/or animal hosts, is potentially contributing to further evolution and dispersal of the virus.

3.
Cell Host Microbe ; 30(8): 1112-1123.e3, 2022 Aug 10.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1894865

ABSTRACT

Although recombination is a feature of coronavirus evolution, previously detected recombinant lineages of SARS-CoV-2 have shown limited circulation thus far. Here, we present a detailed phylogenetic analysis of four SARS-CoV-2 lineages to investigate the possibility of virus recombination among them. Our analyses reveal well-supported phylogenetic differences between the Orf1ab region encoding viral non-structural proteins and the rest of the genome, including Spike (S) protein and remaining reading frames. By accounting for several deletions in NSP6, Orf3a, and S, we conclude that the B.1.628 major cluster, now designated as lineage XB, originated from a recombination event between viruses of B.1.631 and B.1.634 lineages. This scenario is supported by the spatiotemporal distribution of these lineages across the USA and Mexico during 2021, suggesting that the recombination event originated in this geographical region. This event raises important questions regarding the role and potential effects of recombination on SARS-CoV-2 evolution.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/epidemiology , Genome, Viral , Humans , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/chemistry , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics
4.
Nat Rev Genet ; 23(9): 547-562, 2022 Sep.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1805619

ABSTRACT

Determining the transmissibility, prevalence and patterns of movement of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections is central to our understanding of the impact of the pandemic and to the design of effective control strategies. Phylogenies (evolutionary trees) have provided key insights into the international spread of SARS-CoV-2 and enabled investigation of individual outbreaks and transmission chains in specific settings. Phylodynamic approaches combine evolutionary, demographic and epidemiological concepts and have helped track virus genetic changes, identify emerging variants and inform public health strategy. Here, we review and synthesize studies that illustrate how phylogenetic and phylodynamic techniques were applied during the first year of the pandemic, and summarize their contributions to our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and control.

5.
Emerg Infect Dis ; 28(4): 751-758, 2022 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1771001

ABSTRACT

Limited genomic sampling in many high-incidence countries has impeded studies of severe respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genomic epidemiology. Consequently, critical questions remain about the generation and global distribution of virus genetic diversity. We investigated SARS-CoV-2 transmission dynamics in Gujarat, India, during the state's first epidemic wave to shed light on spread of the virus in one of the regions hardest hit by the pandemic. By integrating case data and 434 whole-genome sequences sampled across 20 districts, we reconstructed the epidemic dynamics and spatial spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Gujarat. Our findings indicate global and regional connectivity and population density were major drivers of the Gujarat outbreak. We detected >100 virus lineage introductions, most of which appear to be associated with international travel. Within Gujarat, virus dissemination occurred predominantly from densely populated regions to geographically proximate locations that had low population density, suggesting that urban centers contributed disproportionately to virus spread.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/epidemiology , Genome, Viral , Genomics , Humans , India/epidemiology , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
6.
BMC Genomics ; 23(1): 121, 2022 Feb 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1690976

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: More than 2 million SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences have been generated and shared since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and constitute a vital information source that informs outbreak control, disease surveillance, and public health policy. The Pango dynamic nomenclature is a popular system for classifying and naming genetically-distinct lineages of SARS-CoV-2, including variants of concern, and is based on the analysis of complete or near-complete virus genomes. However, for several reasons, nucleotide sequences may be generated that cover only the spike gene of SARS-CoV-2. It is therefore important to understand how much information about Pango lineage status is contained in spike-only nucleotide sequences. Here we explore how Pango lineages might be reliably designated and assigned to spike-only nucleotide sequences. We survey the genetic diversity of such sequences, and investigate the information they contain about Pango lineage status. RESULTS: Although many lineages, including the main variants of concern, can be identified clearly using spike-only sequences, some spike-only sequences are shared among tens or hundreds of Pango lineages. To facilitate the classification of SARS-CoV-2 lineages using subgenomic sequences we introduce the notion of designating such sequences to a "lineage set", which represents the range of Pango lineages that are consistent with the observed mutations in a given spike sequence. CONCLUSIONS: We find that many lineages, including the main variants-of-concern, can be reliably identified by spike alone and we define lineage-sets to represent the lineage precision that can be achieved using spike-only nucleotide sequences. These data provide a foundation for the development of software tools that can assign newly-generated spike nucleotide sequences to Pango lineage sets.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Base Sequence , Humans , Mutation , Pandemics , Phylogeny , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics
7.
Nat Commun ; 13(1): 751, 2022 02 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1684022

ABSTRACT

Understanding SARS-CoV-2 transmission in higher education settings is important to limit spread between students, and into at-risk populations. In this study, we sequenced 482 SARS-CoV-2 isolates from the University of Cambridge from 5 October to 6 December 2020. We perform a detailed phylogenetic comparison with 972 isolates from the surrounding community, complemented with epidemiological and contact tracing data, to determine transmission dynamics. We observe limited viral introductions into the university; the majority of student cases were linked to a single genetic cluster, likely following social gatherings at a venue outside the university. We identify considerable onward transmission associated with student accommodation and courses; this was effectively contained using local infection control measures and following a national lockdown. Transmission clusters were largely segregated within the university or the community. Our study highlights key determinants of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and effective interventions in a higher education setting that will inform public health policy during pandemics.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/transmission , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Universities , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/virology , Contact Tracing , Genome, Viral/genetics , Genomics , Humans , Phylogeny , RNA, Viral/genetics , Risk Factors , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Students , United Kingdom/epidemiology , Universities/statistics & numerical data
8.
Elife ; 102021 11 17.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1662831

ABSTRACT

The poor efficacy of seasonal influenza virus vaccines is often attributed to pre-existing immunity interfering with the persistence and maturation of vaccine-induced B cell responses. We previously showed that a subset of vaccine-induced B cell lineages are recruited into germinal centers (GCs) following vaccination, suggesting that affinity maturation of these lineages against vaccine antigens can occur. However, it remains to be determined whether seasonal influenza vaccination stimulates additional evolution of vaccine-specific lineages, and previous work has found no significant increase in somatic hypermutation among influenza-binding lineages sampled from the blood following seasonal vaccination in humans. Here, we investigate this issue using a phylogenetic test of measurable immunoglobulin sequence evolution. We first validate this test through simulations and survey measurable evolution across multiple conditions. We find significant heterogeneity in measurable B cell evolution across conditions, with enrichment in primary response conditions such as HIV infection and early childhood development. We then show that measurable evolution following influenza vaccination is highly compartmentalized: while lineages in the blood are rarely measurably evolving following influenza vaccination, lineages containing GC B cells are frequently measurably evolving. Many of these lineages appear to derive from memory B cells. We conclude from these findings that seasonal influenza virus vaccination can stimulate additional evolution of responding B cell lineages, and imply that the poor efficacy of seasonal influenza vaccination is not due to a complete inhibition of vaccine-specific B cell evolution.


When the immune system encounters a disease-causing pathogen, it releases antibodies that can bind to specific regions of the bacterium or virus and help to clear the infection. These proteins are generated by B cells which, upon detecting the pathogen, can begin to mutate and alter the structure of the antibody they produce: the better the antibody is at binding to the pathogen, the more likely the B cell is to survive. This process of evolution produces B cells that make more effective antibodies. After the infection, some of these cells become 'memory B cells' which can be stimulated in to action when the pathogen invades again. Many vaccines also depend on this process to trigger the production of memory B cells that can fight off a specific disease-causing agent. However, it is unclear to what extent memory B cells that already exist are able to continue to evolve and modify their antibodies. This is particularly important for the flu vaccine, as the virus that causes influenza rapidly mutates. To provide high levels of protection, the memory B cells formed following the vaccine may therefore need to evolve to make different antibodies that recognize mutated forms of the virus. It is thought that the low effectiveness of the flu vaccine is partially because the response it triggers does not stimulate additional evolution of memory B cells. To test this theory, Hoehn et al. developed a computational method that can detect the evolution of B cells over time. The tool was applied to samples collected from the blood and lymph nodes (organ where immune cells reside) of people who recently received the flu vaccine. The results were then compared to B cells taken from people after different infections, vaccinations, and other conditions. Hoehn et al. found the degree to which B cells evolve varies significantly between conditions. For example, B cells produced during chronic HIV infections frequently evolved over time, while such evolution was rarely observed during the autoimmune disease myasthenia gravis. The analysis also showed that memory B cells produced by the flu vaccine were able to evolve if recruited to the lymph nodes, but this was rarely detected in B cells in the blood. These findings suggest the low efficacy of the flu vaccine is not due to a complete lack of B cell evolution, but likely due to other factors. For instance, it is possible the evolutionary process it stimulates is not as robust as in other conditions, or is less likely to produce long-lived B cells that release antibodies. More research is needed to explore these ideas and could lead to the development of more effective flu vaccines.


Subject(s)
B-Lymphocytes/immunology , Evolution, Molecular , Germinal Center/immunology , Influenza Vaccines/immunology , Humans , Influenza, Human/virology , Phylogeny , Vaccination
9.
Nat Commun ; 13(1): 460, 2022 01 24.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1651070

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant has spread rapidly worldwide. To provide data on its virological profile, we here report the first local transmission of Delta in mainland China. All 167 infections could be traced back to the first index case. Daily sequential PCR testing of quarantined individuals indicated that the viral loads of Delta infections, when they first become PCR-positive, were on average ~1000 times greater compared to lineage A/B infections during the first epidemic wave in China in early 2020, suggesting potentially faster viral replication and greater infectiousness of Delta during early infection. The estimated transmission bottleneck size of the Delta variant was generally narrow, with 1-3 virions in 29 donor-recipient transmission pairs. However, the transmission of minor iSNVs resulted in at least 3 of the 34 substitutions that were identified in the outbreak, highlighting the contribution of intra-host variants to population-level viral diversity during rapid spread.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/transmission , Contact Tracing/methods , Disease Outbreaks/prevention & control , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Animals , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/virology , Chlorocebus aethiops , Humans , RNA-Seq/methods , Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Time Factors , Vero Cells , Viral Load/genetics , Viral Load/physiology , Virus Replication/genetics , Virus Replication/physiology , Virus Shedding/genetics , Virus Shedding/physiology
11.
Mol Biol Evol ; 39(2)2022 02 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1625216

ABSTRACT

High-throughput sequencing enables rapid genome sequencing during infectious disease outbreaks and provides an opportunity to quantify the evolutionary dynamics of pathogens in near real-time. One difficulty of undertaking evolutionary analyses over short timescales is the dependency of the inferred evolutionary parameters on the timespan of observation. Crucially, there are an increasing number of molecular clock analyses using external evolutionary rate priors to infer evolutionary parameters. However, it is not clear which rate prior is appropriate for a given time window of observation due to the time-dependent nature of evolutionary rate estimates. Here, we characterize the molecular evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 and 2009 pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) influenza during the first 12 months of their respective pandemics. We use Bayesian phylogenetic methods to estimate the dates of emergence, evolutionary rates, and growth rates of SARS-CoV-2 and pH1N1 over time and investigate how varying sampling window and data set sizes affect the accuracy of parameter estimation. We further use a generalized McDonald-Kreitman test to estimate the number of segregating nonneutral sites over time. We find that the inferred evolutionary parameters for both pandemics are time dependent, and that the inferred rates of SARS-CoV-2 and pH1N1 decline by ∼50% and ∼100%, respectively, over the course of 1 year. After at least 4 months since the start of sequence sampling, inferred growth rates and emergence dates remain relatively stable and can be inferred reliably using a logistic growth coalescent model. We show that the time dependency of the mean substitution rate is due to elevated substitution rates at terminal branches which are 2-4 times higher than those of internal branches for both viruses. The elevated rate at terminal branches is strongly correlated with an increasing number of segregating nonneutral sites, demonstrating the role of purifying selection in generating the time dependency of evolutionary parameters during pandemics.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype , Influenza, Human , Bayes Theorem , Humans , Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype/genetics , Influenza, Human/epidemiology , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2
14.
Trends Parasitol ; 37(12): 1038-1049, 2021 12.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1447070

ABSTRACT

Genomic epidemiology, which links pathogen genomes with associated metadata to understand disease transmission, has become a key component of outbreak response. Decreasing costs of genome sequencing and increasing computational power provide opportunities to generate and analyse large viral genomic datasets that aim to uncover the spatial scales of transmission, the demographics contributing to transmission patterns, and to forecast epidemic trends. Emerging sources of genomic data and associated metadata provide new opportunities to further unravel transmission patterns. Key challenges include how to integrate genomic data with metadata from multiple sources, how to generate efficient computational algorithms to cope with large datasets, and how to establish sampling frameworks to enable robust conclusions.


Subject(s)
Disease Outbreaks , Genome, Viral , Genome, Viral/genetics , Genomics
15.
Virus Evol ; 7(2): veab064, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1413298

ABSTRACT

The response of the global virus genomics community to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has been unprecedented, with significant advances made towards the 'real-time' generation and sharing of SARS-CoV-2 genomic data. The rapid growth in virus genome data production has necessitated the development of new analytical methods that can deal with orders of magnitude of more genomes than previously available. Here, we present and describe Phylogenetic Assignment of Named Global Outbreak Lineages (pangolin), a computational tool that has been developed to assign the most likely lineage to a given SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence according to the Pango dynamic lineage nomenclature scheme. To date, nearly two million virus genomes have been submitted to the web-application implementation of pangolin, which has facilitated the SARS-CoV-2 genomic epidemiology and provided researchers with access to actionable information about the pandemic's transmission lineages.

16.
Virus Evol ; 7(2): veab051, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1412522

ABSTRACT

Characterisation of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) genetic diversity through space and time can reveal trends in virus importation and domestic circulation and permit the exploration of questions regarding the early transmission dynamics. Here, we present a detailed description of SARS-CoV-2 genomic epidemiology in Ecuador, one of the hardest hit countries during the early stages of the coronavirus-19 pandemic. We generated and analysed 160 whole genome sequences sampled from all provinces of Ecuador in 2020. Molecular clock and phylogeographic analysis of these sequences in the context of global SARS-CoV-2 diversity enable us to identify and characterise individual transmission lineages within Ecuador, explore their spatiotemporal distributions, and consider their introduction and domestic circulation. Our results reveal a pattern of multiple international importations across the country, with apparent differences between key provinces. Transmission lineages were mostly introduced before the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions, with differential degrees of persistence and national dissemination.

17.
Cell ; 184(20): 5179-5188.e8, 2021 09 30.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1401294

ABSTRACT

We present evidence for multiple independent origins of recombinant SARS-CoV-2 viruses sampled from late 2020 and early 2021 in the United Kingdom. Their genomes carry single-nucleotide polymorphisms and deletions that are characteristic of the B.1.1.7 variant of concern but lack the full complement of lineage-defining mutations. Instead, the remainder of their genomes share contiguous genetic variation with non-B.1.1.7 viruses circulating in the same geographic area at the same time as the recombinants. In four instances, there was evidence for onward transmission of a recombinant-origin virus, including one transmission cluster of 45 sequenced cases over the course of 2 months. The inferred genomic locations of recombination breakpoints suggest that every community-transmitted recombinant virus inherited its spike region from a B.1.1.7 parental virus, consistent with a transmission advantage for B.1.1.7's set of mutations.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/transmission , Pandemics , Recombination, Genetic , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Base Sequence/genetics , COVID-19/virology , Computational Biology/methods , Gene Frequency , Genome, Viral , Genotype , Humans , Mutation , Phylogeny , Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide , United Kingdom/epidemiology , Whole Genome Sequencing/methods
18.
Nat Microbiol ; 6(3): 415, 2021 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1387369

ABSTRACT

An Addendum to this paper has been published: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41564-021-00872-5.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Genome, Viral/genetics , Genomics , Humans
20.
Lancet Reg Health West Pac ; 14: 100259, 2021 Sep.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1364343

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, China implemented strict restrictions on cross-border travel to prevent disease importation. Yunnan, a Chinese province that borders dengue-endemic countries in Southeast Asia, experienced unprecedented reduction in dengue, from 6840 recorded cases in 2019 to 260 in 2020. METHODS: Using a combination of epidemiological and virus genomic data, collected from 2013 to 2020 in Yunnan and neighbouring countries, we conduct a series of analyses to characterise the role of virus importation in driving dengue dynamics in Yunnan and assess the association between recent international travel restrictions and the decline in dengue reported in Yunnan in 2020. FINDINGS: We find strong evidence that dengue incidence between 2013-2019 in Yunnan was closely linked with international importation of cases. A 0-2 month lag in incidence not explained by seasonal differences, absence of local transmission in the winter, effective reproductive numbers < 1 (as estimated independently using genetic data) and diverse cosmopolitan dengue virus phylogenies all suggest dengue is non-endemic in Yunnan. Using a multivariate statistical model we show that the substantial decline in dengue incidence observed in Yunnan in 2020 but not in neighbouring countries is closely associated with the timing of international travel restrictions, even after accounting for other environmental drivers of dengue incidence. INTERPRETATION: We conclude that Yunnan is a regional sink for DENV lineage movement and that border restrictions may have substantially reduced dengue burden in 2020, potentially averting thousands of cases. Targeted testing and surveillance of travelers returning from high-risk areas could help to inform public health strategies to minimise or even eliminate dengue outbreaks in non-endemic settings like southern China. FUNDING: Funding for this study was provided by National Key Research and Development Program of China, Beijing Science and Technology Planning Project (Z201100005420010); Beijing Natural Science Foundation (JQ18025); Beijing Advanced Innovation Program for Land Surface Science; National Natural Science Foundation of China (82073616); Young Elite Scientist Sponsorship Program by CAST (YESS) (2018QNRC001); H.T., O.P.G. and M.U.G.K. acknowledge support from the Oxford Martin School. O.J.B was supported by a Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowship (206471/Z/17/Z). Chinese translation of the abstract (Appendix 2).

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