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1.
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.

2.
Microb Genom ; 8(3)2022 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1746154

ABSTRACT

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is adaptively evolving to ensure its persistence within human hosts. It is therefore necessary to continuously monitor the emergence and prevalence of novel variants that arise. Importantly, some mutations have been associated with both molecular diagnostic failures and reduced or abrogated next-generation sequencing (NGS) read coverage in some genomic regions. Such impacts are particularly problematic when they occur in genomic regions such as those that encode the spike (S) protein, which are crucial for identifying and tracking the prevalence and dissemination dynamics of concerning viral variants. Targeted Sanger sequencing presents a fast and cost-effective means to accurately extend the coverage of whole-genome sequences. We designed a custom set of primers to amplify a 401 bp segment of the receptor-binding domain (RBD) (between positions 22698 and 23098 relative to the Wuhan-Hu-1 reference). We then designed a Sanger sequencing wet-laboratory protocol. We applied the primer set and wet-laboratory protocol to sequence 222 samples that were missing positions with key mutations K417N, E484K, and N501Y due to poor coverage after NGS sequencing. Finally, we developed SeqPatcher, a Python-based computational tool to analyse the trace files yielded by Sanger sequencing to generate consensus sequences, or take preanalysed consensus sequences in fasta format, and merge them with their corresponding whole-genome assemblies. We successfully sequenced 153 samples of 222 (69 %) using Sanger sequencing and confirmed the occurrence of key beta variant mutations (K417N, E484K, N501Y) in the S genes of 142 of 153 (93 %) samples. Additionally, one sample had the Y508F mutation and four samples the S477N. Samples with RT-PCR C t scores ranging from 13.85 to 37.47 (mean=25.70) could be Sanger sequenced efficiently. These results show that our method and pipeline can be used to improve the quality of whole-genome assemblies produced using NGS and can be used with any pairs of the most used NGS and Sanger sequencing platforms.


Subject(s)
Genome, Viral , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Sequence Analysis, DNA/methods , High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing , Mutation
3.
Nature ; 603(7902): 679-686, 2022 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1638766

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in southern Africa has been characterized by three distinct waves. The first was associated with a mix of SARS-CoV-2 lineages, while the second and third waves were driven by the Beta (B.1.351) and Delta (B.1.617.2) variants, respectively1-3. In November 2021, genomic surveillance teams in South Africa and Botswana detected a new SARS-CoV-2 variant associated with a rapid resurgence of infections in Gauteng province, South Africa. Within three days of the first genome being uploaded, it was designated a variant of concern (Omicron, B.1.1.529) by the World Health Organization and, within three weeks, had been identified in 87 countries. The Omicron variant is exceptional for carrying over 30 mutations in the spike glycoprotein, which are predicted to influence antibody neutralization and spike function4. Here we describe the genomic profile and early transmission dynamics of Omicron, highlighting the rapid spread in regions with high levels of population immunity.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/virology , Immune Evasion , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Antibodies, Neutralizing/immunology , Botswana/epidemiology , COVID-19/immunology , COVID-19/transmission , Humans , Models, Molecular , Mutation , Phylogeny , Recombination, Genetic , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , South Africa/epidemiology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/immunology
4.
Sci Rep ; 11(1): 17793, 2021 09 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1397895

ABSTRACT

The rapid identification and isolation of infected individuals remains a key strategy for controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Frequent testing of populations to detect infection early in asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals can be a powerful tool for intercepting transmission, especially when the viral prevalence is low. However, RT-PCR testing-the gold standard of SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis-is expensive, making regular testing of every individual unfeasible. Sample pooling is one approach to lowering costs. By combining samples and testing them in groups the number of tests required is reduced, substantially lowering costs. Here we report on the implementation of pooling strategies using 3-d and 4-d hypercubes to test a professional sports team in South Africa. We have shown that infected samples can be reliably detected in groups of 27 and 81, with minimal loss of assay sensitivity for samples with individual Ct values of up to 32. We report on the automation of sample pooling, using a liquid-handling robot and an automated web interface to identify positive samples. We conclude that hypercube pooling allows for the reliable RT-PCR detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection, at significantly lower costs than lateral flow antigen (LFA) tests.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing/methods , COVID-19/diagnosis , High-Throughput Screening Assays/methods , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Specimen Handling/methods , Antigens, Viral/isolation & purification , Athletes , COVID-19/blood , COVID-19/virology , COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing/economics , COVID-19 Serological Testing/economics , COVID-19 Serological Testing/methods , Cost Savings , High-Throughput Screening Assays/economics , Humans , RNA, Viral/isolation & purification , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Sensitivity and Specificity , South Africa , Specimen Handling/economics , Sports Medicine/economics , Sports Medicine/methods
5.
PLoS Biol ; 19(5): e3001236, 2021 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1220158

ABSTRACT

With the emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants that may increase transmissibility and/or cause escape from immune responses, there is an urgent need for the targeted surveillance of circulating lineages. It was found that the B.1.1.7 (also 501Y.V1) variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, could be serendipitously detected by the Thermo Fisher TaqPath COVID-19 PCR assay because a key deletion in these viruses, spike Δ69-70, would cause a "spike gene target failure" (SGTF) result. However, a SGTF result is not definitive for B.1.1.7, and this assay cannot detect other variants of concern (VOC) that lack spike Δ69-70, such as B.1.351 (also 501Y.V2), detected in South Africa, and P.1 (also 501Y.V3), recently detected in Brazil. We identified a deletion in the ORF1a gene (ORF1a Δ3675-3677) in all 3 variants, which has not yet been widely detected in other SARS-CoV-2 lineages. Using ORF1a Δ3675-3677 as the primary target and spike Δ69-70 to differentiate, we designed and validated an open-source PCR assay to detect SARS-CoV-2 VOC. Our assay can be rapidly deployed in laboratories around the world to enhance surveillance for the local emergence and spread of B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/virology , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , COVID-19/diagnosis , COVID-19/genetics , DNA Primers , Humans , Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction/methods , Mutation , Polyproteins/genetics , Viral Proteins/genetics
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