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Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-22270799


IntroductionViral sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 has been used for outbreak investigation, but there is limited evidence supporting routine use for infection prevention and control (IPC) within hospital settings. MethodsWe conducted a prospective non-randomised trial of sequencing at 14 acute UK hospital trusts. Sites each had a 4-week baseline data-collection period, followed by intervention periods comprising 8 weeks of rapid (<48h) and 4 weeks of longer-turnaround (5-10 day) sequencing using a sequence reporting tool (SRT). Data were collected on all hospital onset COVID-19 infections (HOCIs; detected [≥]48h from admission). The impact of the sequencing intervention on IPC knowledge and actions, and on incidence of probable/definite hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) was evaluated. ResultsA total of 2170 HOCI cases were recorded from October 2020-April 2021, with sequence reports returned for 650/1320 (49.2%) during intervention phases. We did not detect a statistically significant change in weekly incidence of HAIs in longer-turnaround (IRR 1.60, 95%CI 0.85-3.01; P=0.14) or rapid (0.85, 0.48-1.50; P=0.54) intervention phases compared to baseline phase. However, IPC practice was changed in 7.8% and 7.4% of all HOCI cases in rapid and longer-turnaround phases, respectively, and 17.2% and 11.6% of cases where the report was returned. In a per-protocol sensitivity analysis there was an impact on IPC actions in 20.7% of HOCI cases when the SRT report was returned within 5 days. ConclusionWhile we did not demonstrate a direct impact of sequencing on the incidence of nosocomial transmission, our results suggest that sequencing can inform IPC response to HOCIs, particularly when returned within 5 days.

Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-474030


The mutational landscape of SARS-CoV-2 varies at both the dominant viral genome sequence and minor genomic variant population. An early change associated with transmissibility was the D614G substitution in the spike protein. This appeared to be accompanied by a P323L substitution in the viral polymerase (NSP12), but this latter change was not under strong selective pressure. Investigation of P323L/D614G changes in the human population showed rapid emergence during the containment phase and early surge phase of wave 1 in the UK. This rapid substitution was from minor genomic variants to become part of the dominant viral genome sequence. A rapid emergence of 323L but not 614G was observed in a non-human primate model of COVID-19 using a starting virus with P323 and D614 in the dominant genome sequence and 323L and 614G in the minor variant population. In cell culture, a recombinant virus with 323L in NSP12 had a larger plaque size than the same recombinant virus with P323. These data suggest that it may be possible to predict the emergence of a new variant based on tracking the distribution and frequency of minor variant genomes at a population level, rather than just focusing on providing information on the dominant viral genome sequence e.g., consensus level reporting. The ability to predict an emerging variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the global landscape may aid in the evaluation of medical countermeasures and non-pharmaceutical interventions.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21258689


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 two 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.1.1.7s set of mutations.

Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-433753


IntroductionSARS-CoV-2 has a complex strategy for the transcription of viral subgenomic mRNAs (sgmRNAs), which are targets for nucleic acid diagnostics. Each of these sgRNAs has a unique 5 sequence, the leader-transcriptional regulatory sequence gene junction (leader-TRS-junction), that can be identified using sequencing. ResultsHigh resolution sequencing has been used to investigate the biology of SARS-CoV-2 and the host response in cell culture models and from clinical samples. LeTRS, a bioinformatics tool, was developed to identify leader-TRS-junctions and be used as a proxy to quantify sgmRNAs for understanding virus biology. This was tested on published datasets and clinical samples from patients and longitudinal samples from animal models with COVID-19. DiscussionLeTRS identified known leader-TRS-junctions and identified novel species that were common across different species. The data indicated multi-phasic abundance of sgmRNAs in two different animal models, with spikes in sgmRNA abundance reflected in human samples, and therefore has implications for transmission models and nucleic acid-based diagnostics.