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1.
biorxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.09.13.557637

ABSTRACT

Zoonotic spillovers of viruses have occurred through the animal trade worldwide. The start of the COVID-19 pandemic was traced epidemiologically to the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, the site with the most reported wildlife vendors in the city of Wuhan, China. Here, we analyze publicly available qPCR and sequencing data from environmental samples collected in the Huanan market in early 2020. We demonstrate that the SARS-CoV-2 genetic diversity linked to this market is consistent with market emergence, and find increased SARS-CoV-2 positivity near and within a particular wildlife stall. We identify wildlife DNA in all SARS-CoV-2 positive samples from this stall. This includes species such as civets, bamboo rats, porcupines, hedgehogs, and one species, raccoon dogs, known to be capable of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. We also detect other animal viruses that infect raccoon dogs, civets, and bamboo rats. Combining metagenomic and phylogenetic approaches, we recover genotypes of market animals and compare them to those from other markets. This analysis provides the genetic basis for a short list of potential intermediate hosts of SARS-CoV-2 to prioritize for retrospective serological testing and viral sampling.

2.
medrxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.08.20.23293987

ABSTRACT

Background: Decisions to impose temporary travel measures are less common as the global epidemiology of COVID-19 evolves. Risk-based travel measures may avoid the need for a complete travel ban, however evaluations of their effects are lacking. Here we investigated the public health effects of a temporary traffic light system introduced in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2021, imposing red-amber-green (RAG) status based on risk assessment. Methods: We analysed data on international flight passengers arriving into Scotland, COVID-19 testing surveillance, and SARS-CoV-2 whole genome sequences to quantify effects of the traffic light system on (i) international travel frequency, (ii) travel-related SARS-CoV-2 case importations, (iii) national SARS-CoV-2 case incidence, and (iv) importation of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants. Results: International flight passengers arriving into Scotland had increased by 754% during the traffic light period. Amber list countries were the most frequently visited and ranked highly for SARS-CoV-2 importations and contribution to national case incidence. Rates of international travel and associated SARS-CoV-2 cases varied significantly across age, health board, and deprivation groups. Multivariable logistic regression revealed SARS-CoV-2 cases detections were less likely among travellers than non-travellers, although increasing from green-to-amber and amber-to-red lists. When examined according to travel destination, SARS-CoV-2 importation risks did not strictly follow RAG designations, and red lists did not prevent establishment of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that country-specific post-arrival screening undertaken in Scotland did not prohibit the public health impact of COVID-19 in Scotland. Travel rates likely contributed to patterns of high SARS-CoV-2 case importation and population impact.

3.
biorxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.07.12.548617

ABSTRACT

The emergence of SARS-CoV in 2002 and SARS-CoV-2 in 2019 has led to increased sampling of related sarbecoviruses circulating primarily in horseshoe bats. These viruses undergo frequent recombination and exhibit spatial structuring across Asia. Employing recombination-aware phylogenetic inference on bat sarbecoviruses, we find that the closest-inferred bat virus ancestors of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 existed just ~1-3 years prior to their emergence in humans. Phylogeographic analyses examining the movement of related sarbecoviruses demonstrate that they traveled at similar rates to their horseshoe bat hosts and have been circulating for thousands of years in Asia. The closest-inferred bat virus ancestor of SARS-CoV likely circulated in western China, and that of SARS-CoV-2 likely circulated in a region comprising southwest China and northern Laos, both a substantial distance from where they emerged. This distance and recency indicate that the direct ancestors of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 could not have reached their respective sites of emergence via the bat reservoir alone. Our recombination-aware dating and phylogeographic analyses reveal a more accurate inference of evolutionary history than performing only whole-genome or single gene analyses. These results can guide future sampling efforts and demonstrate that viral genomic fragments extremely closely related to SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 were circulating in horseshoe bats, confirming their importance as the reservoir species for SARS viruses.

4.
biorxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.04.07.536037

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has been characterised by sequential variant-specific waves shaped by viral, individual human and population factors. SARS-CoV-2 variants are defined by their unique combinations of mutations and there has been a clear adaptation to human infection since its emergence in 2019. Here we use machine learning models to identify shared signatures, i.e., common underlying mutational processes, and link these to the subset of mutations that define the variants of concern (VOCs). First, we examined the global SARS-CoV-2 genomes and associated metadata to determine how viral properties and public health measures have influenced the magnitude of waves, as measured by the number of infection cases, in different geographic locations using regression models. This analysis showed that, as expected, both public health measures and not virus properties alone are associated with the rise and fall of regional SARS-CoV-2 reported infection numbers. This impact varies geographically. We attribute this to intrinsic differences such as vaccine coverage, testing and sequencing capacity, and the effectiveness of government stringency. In terms of underlying evolutionary change, we used non-negative matrix factorisation to observe three distinct mutational signatures, unique in their substitution patterns and exposures from the SARS-CoV-2 genomes. Signatures 0, 1 and 3 were biased to C->T, T->C/A->G and G->T point mutations as would be expected of host antiviral molecules APOBEC, ADAR and ROS effects, respectively. We also observe a shift amidst the pandemic in relative mutational signature activity from predominantly APOBEC-like changes to an increasingly high proportion of changes consistent with ADAR editing. This could represent changes in how the virus and the host immune response interact, and indicates how SARS-CoV-2 may continue to accumulate mutations in the future. Linkage of the detected mutational signatures to the VOC defining amino acids substitutions indicates the majority of SARS-CoV-2's evolutionary capacity is likely to be associated with the action of host antiviral molecules rather than virus replication errors.

5.
biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.09.09.507349

ABSTRACT

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in late 2019 and has resulted in millions of death globally. The need to understand the pandemic means that detailed descriptions of features of this virus are now of interest to non-expert audiences. In particular, there has been much public interest in the spike protein that protrudes from the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus particle. The spike is the major determinant of viral infectivity and the main target for protective immune responses, and included in vaccines, and so its properties influence the impact of the pandemic on people's lives. This protein is rapidly evolving, with mutations that enhance transmissibility or weaken vaccine protection creating new variants of concern (VOCs) and associated sub-lineages. The spread of SARS-CoV-2 VOCs has been tracked by groups such as the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium (COG-UK). Their online mutation explorer (COG-UK/ME), which analyses and shares SARS-CoV-2 sequence data, contains information about VOCs that is designed primarily for an expert audience but is potentially of general interest during a pandemic. We wished to make this detailed information about SARS-CoV-2 VOCs more widely accessible. Previously work has shown that visualisations and interactivity can facilitate active learning and boost engagement with molecular biology topics, while animations of these topics can boost understanding on protein structure, function, and dynamics. We therefore set out to develop an educational graphical resource, the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein Mutation Explorer (SSPME), which contains interactive 3D molecular models and animations explaining SARS-CoV-2 spike protein variants and VOCs. We performed user-testing of the original COG-UK/ME website and of the SSPME, using a within-groups design to measure knowledge acquisition and a between-groups design to contrast the effectiveness and usability. Statistical analysis demonstrated that, when compared to the COG-UK/ME, the SSPME had higher usability and significantly improved participant knowledge confidence and knowledge acquisition. The SSPME therefore provides an example of how 3D interactive visualisations can be used for effective science communication and education on complex biomedical topics, as well as being a resource to improve the public understanding of SARS-CoV-2 VOCs.

6.
medrxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.03.24.22272915

ABSTRACT

ObjectiveTo determine how the severity of successively dominant SARS-CoV-2 variants changed over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. DesignRetrospective cohort analysis. SettingCommunity- and hospital-sequenced COVID-19 cases in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GG&C) Health Board. ParticipantsAll sequenced non-nosocomial adult COVID-19 cases in NHS GG&C infected with the relevant SARS-CoV-2 lineages during analysis periods. B.1.177/Alpha: 1st November 2020 - 30th January 2021 (n = 1640). Alpha/Delta: 1st April - 30th June 2021 (n = 5552). AY.4.2 Delta/non-AY.4.2 Delta: 1st July - 31st October 2021 (n = 9613). Non-AY.4.2 Delta/Omicron: 1st - 31st December 2021 (n = 3858). Main outcome measuresAdmission to hospital, ICU, or death within 28 days of positive COVID-19 test ResultsFor B.1.177/Alpha, 300 of 807 B.1.177 cases were recorded as hospitalised or worse, compared to 232 of 833 Alpha cases. After adjustment, the cumulative odds ratio was 1.51 (95% CI: 1.08-2.11) for Alpha versus B.1.177. For Alpha/Delta, 113 of 2104 Alpha cases were recorded as hospitalised or worse, compared to 230 of 3448 Delta cases. After adjustment, the cumulative odds ratio was 2.09 (95% CI: 1.42-3.08) for Delta versus Alpha. For non-AY.4.2 Delta/AY.4.2 Delta, 845 of 8644 non-AY.4.2 Delta cases were recorded as hospitalised or worse, compared to 101 of 969 AY.4.2 Delta cases. After adjustment, the cumulative odds ratio was 0.99 (95% CI: 0.76-1.27) for AY.4.2 Delta versus non-AY.4.2 Delta. For non-AY.4.2 Delta/Omicron, 30 of 1164 non-AY.4.2 Delta cases were recorded as hospitalised or worse, compared to 26 of 2694 Omicron cases. After adjustment, the median cumulative odds ratio was 0.49 (95% CI: 0.22-1.06) for Omicron versus non-AY.4.2 Delta. ConclusionsThe direction of change in disease severity between successively emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern was inconsistent. This heterogeneity demonstrates that severity associated with future SARS-CoV-2 variants is unpredictable.

7.
biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.03.08.481609

ABSTRACT

The first SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern (VOC) to be designated was lineage B.1.1.7, later labelled by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as Alpha. Originating in early Autumn but discovered in December 2020, it spread rapidly and caused large waves of infections worldwide. The Alpha variant is notable for being defined by a long ancestral phylogenetic branch with an increased evolutionary rate, along which only two sequences have been sampled. Alpha genomes comprise a well-supported monophyletic clade within which the evolutionary rate is more typical of SARS-CoV-2. The Alpha epidemic continued to grow despite the continued restrictions on social mixing across the UK, and the imposition of new restrictions, in particular the English national lockdown in November 2020. While from a case-number perspective these interventions succeeded in reducing the absolute number of cases of SARS-CoV-2 in the UK, the impact of these non-pharmaceutical interventions was predominantly to drive the decline of those SARS-CoV-2 lineages that preceded Alpha. We investigate the only two sampled sequences that fall on the branch ancestral to Alpha. We find that one is likely to be a true intermediate sequence, providing information about the order of mutational events that led to Alpha. We explore alternate hypotheses that can explain how Alpha acquired a large number of mutations yet remained largely unobserved in a region of high genomic surveillance: an under-sampled geographical location, a non-human animal population, or a chronically-infected individual. We conclude that the last hypothesis provides the best explanation of the observed behaviour and dynamics of the variant, although we find that the individual need not be immunocompromised, as persistently-infected immunocompetent hosts also display a higher within-host rate of evolution. Finally, we compare the ancestral branches and mutation profiles of other VOCs to each other, and identify that Delta appears to be an outlier both in terms of the genomic locations of its defining mutations, and its lack of rapid evolutionary rate on the ancestral branch. As new variants, such as Omicron, continue to evolve (potentially through similar mechanisms) it remains important to investigate the origins of other variants to identify ways to potentially disrupt their evolution and emergence.

8.
medrxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.02.10.22270799

ABSTRACT

Introduction Viral 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. Methods We 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. Results A 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. Conclusion While 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.

9.
biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.01.14.476382

ABSTRACT

Among the 30 non-synonymous nucleotide substitutions in the Omicron S-gene are 13 that have only rarely been seen in other SARS-CoV-2 sequences. These mutations cluster within three functionally important regions of the S-gene at sites that will likely impact (i) interactions between subunits of the Spike trimer and the predisposition of subunits to shift from down to up configurations, (ii) interactions of Spike with ACE2 receptors, and (iii) the priming of Spike for membrane fusion. We show here that, based on both the rarity of these 13 mutations in intrapatient sequencing reads and patterns of selection at the codon sites where the mutations occur in SARS-CoV-2 and related sarbecoviruses, prior to the emergence of Omicron the mutations would have been predicted to decrease the fitness of any virus within which they occurred. We further propose that the mutations in each of the three clusters therefore cooperatively interact to both mitigate their individual fitness costs, and, in combination with other mutations, adaptively alter the function of Spike. Given the evident epidemic growth advantages of Omicron over all previously known SARS-CoV-2 lineages, it is crucial to determine both how such complex and highly adaptive mutation constellations were assembled within the Omicron S-gene, and why, despite unprecedented global genomic surveillance efforts, the early stages of this assembly process went completely undetected.

10.
medrxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.01.03.21268111

ABSTRACT

Vaccination-based exposure to spike protein derived from early SARS-CoV-2 sequences is the key public health strategy against COVID-19. Successive waves of SARS-CoV-2 infections have been characterised by the evolution of highly mutated variants that are more transmissible and that partially evade the adaptive immune response. Omicron is the fifth of these Variants of Concern (VOCs) and is characterised by a step change in transmission capability, suggesting significant antigenic and biological change. It is characterised by 45 amino acid substitutions, including 30 changes in the spike protein relative to one of the earliest sequences, Wuhan-Hu-1, of which 15 occur in the receptor-binding domain, an area strongly associated with humoral immune evasion. In this study, we demonstrate both markedly decreased neutralisation in serology assays and real-world vaccine effectiveness in recipients of two doses of vaccine, with efficacy partially recovered by a third mRNA booster dose. We also show that immunity from natural infection (without vaccination) is more protective than two doses of vaccine but inferior to three doses. Finally, we demonstrate fundamental changes in the Omicron entry process in vitro, towards TMPRSS2-independent fusion, representing a major shift in the replication properties of SARS-CoV-2. Overall, these findings underlie rapid global transmission and may alter the clinical severity of disease associated with the Omicron variant.

11.
biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.11.21.469423

ABSTRACT

Recombination contributes to the genetic diversity found in coronaviruses and is known to be a prominent mechanism whereby they evolve. It is apparent, both from controlled experiments and in genome sequences sampled from nature, that patterns of recombination in coronaviruses are non-random and that this is likely attributable to a combination of sequence features that favour the occurrence of recombination breakpoints at specific genomic sites, and selection disfavouring the survival of recombinants within which favourable intra-genome interactions have been disrupted. Here we leverage available whole-genome sequence data for six coronavirus subgenera to identify specific patterns of recombination that are conserved between multiple subgenera and then identify the likely factors that underlie these conserved patterns. Specifically, we confirm the non-randomness of recombination breakpoints across all six tested coronavirus subgenera, locate conserved recombination hot- and cold-spots, and determine that the locations of transcriptional regulatory sequences are likely major determinants of conserved recombination breakpoint hot-spot locations. We find that while the locations of recombination breakpoints are not uniformly associated with degrees of nucleotide sequence conservation, they display significant tendencies in multiple coronavirus subgenera to occur in low guanine-cytosine content genome regions, in non-coding regions, at the edges of genes, and at sites within the Spike gene that are predicted to be minimally disruptive of Spike protein folding. While it is apparent that sequence features such as transcriptional regulatory sequences are likely major determinants of where the template-switching events that yield recombination breakpoints most commonly occur, it is evident that selection against misfolded recombinant proteins also strongly impacts observable recombination breakpoint distributions in coronavirus genomes sampled from nature.

12.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.08.17.21260128

ABSTRACT

BackgroundThe B.1.1.7 (Alpha) SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern was associated with increased transmission relative to other variants present at the time of its emergence and several studies have shown an association between the B.1.1.7 lineage infection and increased 28-day mortality. However, to date none have addressed the impact of infection on severity of illness or the need for oxygen or ventilation. MethodsIn this prospective clinical cohort sub-study of the COG-UK consortium, 1475 samples from hospitalised and community cases collected between the 1st November 2020 and 30th January 2021 were collected. These samples were sequenced in local laboratories and analysed for the presence of B.1.1.7-defining mutations. We prospectively matched sequence data to clinical outcomes as the lineage became dominant in Scotland and modelled the association between B.1.1.7 infection and severe disease using a 4-point scale of maximum severity by 28 days: 1. no support, 2. oxygen, 3. ventilation and 4. death. Additionally, we calculated an estimate of the growth rate of B.1.1.7-associated infections following introduction into Scotland using phylogenetic data. ResultsB.1.1.7 was responsible for a third wave of SARS-CoV-2 in Scotland, and rapidly replaced the previously dominant second wave lineage B.1.177) due to a significantly higher transmission rate ([~]5 fold). Of 1475 patients, 364 were infected with B.1.1.7, 1030 with B.1.177 and 81 with other lineages. Our cumulative generalised linear mixed model analyses found evidence (cumulative odds ratio: 1.40, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.93) of a positive association between increased clinical severity and lineage (B.1.1.7 versus non-B.1.1.7). Viral load was higher in B.1.1.7 samples than in non-B.1.1.7 samples as measured by cycle threshold (Ct) value (mean Ct change: -2.46, 95% CI: -4.22, -0.70). ConclusionsThe B.1.1.7 lineage was associated with more severe clinical disease in Scottish patients than co-circulating lineages. FundingCOG-UK is supported by funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) part of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and Genome Research Limited, operating as the Wellcome Sanger Institute. Funding was also provided by UKRI through the JUNIPER consortium (grant number MR/V038613/1). Sequencing and bioinformatics support was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) core award (MC UU 1201412).

13.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.06.23.21259327

ABSTRACT

Vaccines are proving to be highly effective in controlling hospitalisation and deaths associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection but the emergence of viral variants with novel antigenic profiles threatens to diminish their efficacy. Assessment of the ability of sera from vaccine recipients to neutralise SARS-CoV-2 variants will inform the success of strategies for minimising COVID19 cases and the design of effective antigenic formulations. Here, we examine the sensitivity of variants of concern (VOCs) representative of the B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 (first associated with infections in India) and B.1.351 (first associated with infection in South Africa) lineages of SARS-CoV-2 to neutralisation by sera from individuals vaccinated with the BNT162b2 (Pfizer/BioNTech) and ChAdOx1 (Oxford/AstraZeneca) vaccines. Across all vaccinated individuals, the spike glycoproteins from B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 conferred reductions in neutralisation of 4.31 and 5.11-fold respectively. The reduction seen with the B.1.617.2 lineage approached that conferred by the glycoprotein from B.1.351 (South African) variant (6.29-fold reduction) that is known to be associated with reduced vaccine efficacy. Neutralising antibody titres elicited by vaccination with two doses of BNT162b2 were significantly higher than those elicited by vaccination with two doses of ChAdOx1. Fold decreases in the magnitude of neutralisation titre following two doses of BNT162b2, conferred reductions in titre of 7.77, 11.30 and 9.56-fold respectively to B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.351 pseudoviruses, the reduction in neutralisation of the delta variant B.1.617.2 surpassing that of B.1.1351. Fold changes in those vaccinated with two doses of ChAdOx1 were 0.69, 4.01 and 1.48 respectively. The accumulation of mutations in these VOCs, and others, demonstrate the quantifiable risk of antigenic drift and subsequent reduction in vaccine efficacy. Accordingly, booster vaccines based on updated variants are likely to be required over time to prevent productive infection. This study also suggests that two dose regimes of vaccine are required for maximal BNT162b2 and ChAdOx1-induced immunity.

14.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.06.21.21259286

ABSTRACT

SARS-CoV-2 evolution threatens vaccine- and natural infection-derived immunity, and the efficacy of therapeutic antibodies. Herein we sought to predict Spike amino acid changes that could contribute to future variants of concern. We tested the importance of features comprising epidemiology, evolution, immunology, and neural network-based protein sequence modeling. This resulted in identification of the primary biological drivers of SARS-CoV-2 intra-pandemic evolution. We found evidence that resistance to population-level host immunity has increasingly shaped SARS-CoV-2 evolution over time. We identified with high accuracy mutations that will spread, at up to four months in advance, across different phases of the pandemic. Behavior of the model was consistent with a plausible causal structure wherein epidemiological variables integrate the effects of diverse and shifting drivers of viral fitness. We applied our model to forecast mutations that will spread in the future, and characterize how these mutations affect the binding of therapeutic antibodies. These findings demonstrate that it is possible to forecast the driver mutations that could appear in emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. This modeling approach may be applied to any pathogen with genomic surveillance data, and so may address other rapidly evolving pathogens such as influenza, and unknown future pandemic viruses.

15.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.06.18.21258689

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 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.1.1.7's set of mutations.

16.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.05.05.21256681

ABSTRACT

Cell autonomous antiviral defenses can inhibit the replication of viruses and reduce transmission and disease severity. To better understand the antiviral response to SARS-CoV-2, we used interferon-stimulated gene (ISG) expression screening to reveal that OAS1, through RNase L, potently inhibits SARS-CoV-2. We show that while some people can express a prenylated OAS1 variant, that is membrane-associated and blocks SARS-CoV-2 infection, other people express a cytosolic, nonprenylated OAS1 variant which does not detect SARS-CoV-2 (determined by the splice-acceptor SNP Rs10774671). Alleles encoding nonprenylated OAS1 predominate except in people of African descent. Importantly, in hospitalized patients, expression of prenylated OAS1 was associated with protection from severe COVID-19, suggesting this antiviral defense is a major component of a protective antiviral response. Remarkably, approximately 55 million years ago, retrotransposition ablated the OAS1 prenylation signal in horseshoe bats (the presumed source of SARS-CoV-2). Thus, SARS-CoV-2 never had to adapt to evade this defense. As prenylated OAS1 is widespread in animals, the billions of people that lack a prenylated OAS1 could make humans particularly vulnerable to the spillover of coronaviruses from horseshoe bats.

17.
biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.04.06.438675

ABSTRACT

Defining the unique protein features of SARS-CoV-2, the viral agent causing Coronavirus Disease 2019, may guide efforts to control this pathogen. We examined proteins encoded by the Sarbecoviruses closest to SARS-CoV-2 using profile Hidden Markov Model similarities to identify features unique to SARS-CoV-2. Consistent with previous reports, a small set of bat and pangolin-derived Sarbecoviruses show the greatest similarity to SARS-CoV-2. The analysis provided a measure of total proteome similarity and showed that a small subset of bat Sarbecoviruses are closely related but unlikely to be the direct source of SARS-CoV-2. Spike analysis reveals that the current SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern have sampled only 36% of the possible spikes changes which have occurred historically in Sarbecovirus evolution. It is likely that new SARS-CoV-2 variants with changes in these regions are compatible with virus replication and are to be expected in the coming months, unless global viral replication is severely reduced.

18.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.03.24.21253587

ABSTRACT

Objectives: Patients requiring haemodialysis are at increased risk of serious illness with SARS-CoV-2 infection. To improve the understanding of transmission risks in six Scottish renal dialysis units, we utilised the rapid whole-genome sequencing data generated by the COG-UK consortium. Methods: We combined geographical, temporal and genomic sequence data from the community and hospital to estimate the probability of infection originating from within the dialysis unit, the hospital or the community using Bayesian statistical modelling and compared these results to the details of epidemiological investigations. Results: Of 671 patients, 60 (8.9%) became infected with SARS-CoV-2, of whom 16 (27%) died. Within-unit and community transmission were both evident and an instance of transmission from the wider hospital setting was also demonstrated. Conclusions: Near-real-time SARS-CoV-2 sequencing data can facilitate tailored infection prevention and control measures, which can be targeted at reducing risk in these settings. Key words: SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, haemodialysis, renal dialysis unit, infection control, rapid sequencing, outbreak, nosocomial Key words: SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, haemodialysis, renal dialysis unit, infection control, rapid sequencing, outbreak, nosocomial

19.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.02.23.21252268

ABSTRACT

The emergence and rapid rise in prevalence of three independent SARS-CoV-2 '501Y lineages', B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1, in the last three months of 2020 has prompted renewed concerns about the evolutionarily capacity of SARS-CoV-2 to adapt to both rising population immunity and public health interventions such as vaccines and social distancing. Viruses giving rise to the different 501Y lineages have, presumably under intense natural selection following a shift in host environment, independently acquired multiple unique and convergent mutations. As a consequence all have gained epidemiological and immunological properties that will likely complicate the control of COVID-19. Here, by examining patterns of mutations that arose in SARS-CoV-2 genomes during the pandemic we find evidence of a major change in the selective forces acting on immunologically important SARS-CoV-2 genes (such as N and S) that likely coincided with the emergence of the 501Y lineages. In addition to involving continuing sequence diversification, we find evidence that a significant portion of the ongoing adaptive evolution of the 501Y lineages also involves further convergence between the lineages. Our findings highlight the importance of monitoring how members of these known 501Y lineages, and others still undiscovered, are convergently evolving similar strategies to ensure their persistence in the face of mounting infection and vaccine induced host immune recognition.

20.
biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.01.22.427830

ABSTRACT

The lack of an identifiable intermediate host species for the proximal animal ancestor of SARS-CoV-2 and the distance (~1500 km) from Wuhan to Yunnan province, where the closest evolutionary related coronaviruses circulating in horseshoe bats have been identified, is fueling speculation on the natural origins of SARS-CoV-2. Here we analyse SARS-CoV-2's related horseshoe bat and pangolin Sarbecoviruses and confirm Rhinolophus affinis continues to be the likely reservoir species as its host range extends across Central and Southern China. This would explain the bat Sarbecovirus recombinants in the West and East China, trafficked pangolin infections and bat Sarbecovirus recombinants linked to Southern China. Recent ecological disturbances as a result of changes in meat consumption could then explain SARS-CoV-2 transmission to humans through direct or indirect contact with the reservoir wildlife, and subsequent emergence towards Hubei in Central China. The only way, however, of finding the animal progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 as well as the whereabouts of its close relatives, very likely capable of posing a similar threat of emergence in the human population and other animals, will be by increasing the intensity of our sampling.

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