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1.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-22274406

ABSTRACT

South Africas fourth COVID-19 wave was driven predominantly by three lineages (BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3) of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant of concern. We have now identified two new lineages, BA.4 and BA.5. The spike proteins of BA.4 and BA.5 are identical, and comparable to BA.2 except for the addition of 69-70del, L452R, F486V and the wild type amino acid at Q493. The 69-70 deletion in spike allows these lineages to be identified by the proxy marker of S-gene target failure with the TaqPath COVID-19 qPCR assay. BA.4 and BA.5 have rapidly replaced BA.2, reaching more than 50% of sequenced cases in South Africa from the first week of April 2022 onwards. Using a multinomial logistic regression model, we estimate growth advantages for BA.4 and BA.5 of 0.08 (95% CI: 0.07 - 0.09) and 0.12 (95% CI: 0.09 - 0.15) per day respectively over BA.2 in South Africa.

2.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21267606

ABSTRACT

The Delta variant of concern of SARS-CoV-2 has spread globally causing large outbreaks and resurgences of COVID-19 cases1-3. The emergence of Delta in the UK occurred on the background of a heterogeneous landscape of immunity and relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions4,5. Here we analyse 52,992 Delta genomes from England in combination 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 focus of geographic expansion of Delta 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 from India reduced onward transmission from importations; however the transmission chains that later dominated the Delta wave in England had been already seeded before restrictions were introduced. In England, increasing inter-regional travel drove Deltas nationwide dissemination, with some cities receiving >2,000 observable lineage introductions from other regions. Subsequently, increased levels of local population mixing, not the number of importations, was associated with faster relative growth of Delta. Among US states, we find that regions that previously experienced large waves also had faster Delta growth rates, and a model including interactions between immunity and human behaviour could accurately predict the rise of Delta there. Deltas invasion dynamics depended on fine scale spatial heterogeneity in immunity and contact patterns and our findings will inform optimal spatial interventions to reduce transmission of current and future VOCs such as Omicron.

3.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21266601

ABSTRACT

Genetic recombination is an important driving force of coronavirus evolution. While some degree of virus recombination has been reported during the COVID-19 pandemic, previously detected recombinant lineages of SARS-CoV-2 have shown limited circulation and been observed only in restricted areas. Prompted by reports of unusual genetic similarities among several Pango lineages detected mainly in North and Central America, we present a detailed phylogenetic analysis of four SARS-CoV-2 lineages (B.1.627, B.1.628, B.1.631 and B.1.634) in order to investigate the possibility of virus recombination among them. Two of these lineages, B.1.628 and B.1.631, are split into two distinct clusters (here named major and minor). Our phylogenetic and recombination analyses of these lineages find well-supported phylogenetic differences between the Orf1ab region and the rest of the genome (S protein and remaining reading frames). The lineages also contain several deletions in the NSP6, Orf3a and S proteins that can augment reconstruction of reliable evolutionary histories. By reconciling the deletions and phylogenetic data, we conclude that the B.1.628 major cluster originated from a recombination event between a B.1.631 major virus and a lineage B.1.634 virus. This scenario inferred from genetic data is supported by the spatial and temporal distribution of the three lineages, which all co-circulated in the USA and Mexico during 2021, suggesting this region is where the recombination event took place. We therefore support the designation of the B.1.628 major cluster as recombinant lineage XB in the Pango nomenclature. The widespread circulation of lineage XB across multiple countries over a longer timespan than the previously designated recombinant XA lineage raises important questions regarding the role and potential effects of recombination on the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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