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1.
medrxiv; 2024.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2024.02.27.24303385

ABSTRACT

The dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 transmission are influenced by a variety of factors, including social restrictions and the emergence of distinct variants. In this study, we delve into the origins and dissemination of the Alpha, Delta, and Omicron variants of concern in Galicia, northwest Spain. For this, we leveraged genomic data collected by the EPICOVIGAL Consortium and from the GISAID database, along with mobility information from other Spanish regions and foreign countries. Our analysis indicates that initial introductions during the Alpha phase were predominantly from other Spanish regions and France. However, as the pandemic progressed, introductions from Portugal and the USA became increasingly significant. Notably, Galicia's major coastal cities emerged as critical hubs for viral transmission, highlighting their role in sustaining and spreading the virus. This research emphasizes the critical role of regional connectivity in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and offers essential insights for enhancing public health strategies and surveillance measures.

3.
biorxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.06.17.545443

ABSTRACT

Molecular evolutionary rate variation is a key aspect of the evolution of many organisms that can be modelled using molecular clock models. For example, fixed local clocks revealed the role of episodic evolution in the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. Like all statistical models, however, the reliability of such inferences is contingent on an assessment of statistical evidence. We present a novel Bayesian phylogenetic approach for detecting episodic evolution. It consists of computing Bayes factors, as the ratio of posterior and prior odds of evolutionary rate increases, effectively quantifying support for the effect size. We conducted an extensive simulation study to illustrate the power of this method and benchmarked it to formal model comparison of a range of molecular clock models using (log) marginal likelihood estimation, and to inference under a random local clock model. Quantifying support for the effect size has higher sensitivity than formal model testing and is straight-forward to compute, because it only needs samples from the posterior and prior distribution. However formal model testing has the advantage of accommodating a wide range molecular clock models. In contrast, the random local clock had low power for detecting episodic evolution. In an empirical analysis of a data set of SARS-CoV-2 genomes, we find 'very strong' evidence for episodic evolution. Our results provide guidelines and practical methods for Bayesian detection of episodic evolution, as well as avenues for further research into this phenomenon.

4.
medrxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.08.12.22278699

ABSTRACT

The emergence of novel Omicron lineages, such as BA.5, may impact the therapeutic efficacy of anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Here, we evaluated the neutralization and ADCC activity of 6 therapeutic mAbs against Delta, BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5 isolates. The Omicron sub-variants escaped most of the antibodies but remained sensitive to Bebtelovimab and Cilgavimab. Consistent with their shared spike sequence, BA.4 and BA.5 displayed identical neutralization profiles. Sotrovimab was the most efficient at eliciting ADCC. We also analyzed 121 sera from 40 immunocompromised individuals up to 6 months after infusion of 1200 mg of Ronapreve (Imdevimab + Casirivimab), and 300 or 600 mg of Evusheld (Cilgavimab + Tixagevimab). Sera from Ronapreve-treated individuals did not neutralize Omicron subvariants. Evusheld-treated individuals neutralized BA.2 and BA.5, but titers were reduced by 41- and 130-fold, respectively, compared to Delta. A longitudinal evaluation of sera from Evusheld-treated patients revealed a slow decay of mAb levels and neutralization. The decline was more rapid against BA.5. Our data shed light on the antiviral activities of therapeutic mAbs and the duration of effectiveness of Evusheld pre-exposure prophylaxis.

5.
biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.07.07.498932

ABSTRACT

Bayesian phylogeographic inference is a powerful tool in molecular epidemiological studies that enables reconstructing the origin and subsequent geographic spread of pathogens. Such inference is, however, potentially affected by geographic sampling bias. Here, we investigated the impact of sampling bias on the spatiotemporal reconstruction of viral epidemics using Bayesian discrete phylogeographic models and explored different operational strategies to mitigate this impact. We considered the continuous-time Markov chain (CTMC) model and two structured coalescent approximations (BASTA and MASCOT). For each approach, we compared the estimated and simulated spatiotemporal histories in biased and unbiased conditions based on simulated epidemics of rabies virus (RABV) in dogs in Morocco. While the reconstructed spatiotemporal histories were impacted by sampling bias for the three approaches, BASTA and MASCOT reconstructions were also biased when employing unbiased samples. Increasing the number of analyzed genomes led to more robust estimates at low sampling bias for CTMC. Alternative sampling strategies that maximize the spatiotemporal coverage greatly improved the inference at intermediate sampling bias for CTMC, and to a lesser extent, for BASTA and MASCOT. In contrast, allowing for time-varying population sizes in MASCOT resulted in robust inference. We further applied these approaches to two empirical datasets: a RABV dataset from the Philippines and a SARS-CoV-2 dataset describing its early spread across the world. In conclusion, sampling biases are ubiquitous in phylogeographic analyses but may be accommodated by increasing sample size, balancing spatial and temporal composition in the samples, and informing structured coalescent models with reliable case count data.

6.
medrxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.05.31.22275802

ABSTRACT

The emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant of concern (lineage B.1.617.2) in late 2020 resulted in a new wave of infections in many countries across the world, where it often became the dominant lineage in a relatively short amount of time. We here report on a novel genomic surveillance effort in Rwanda in the time period from June to September 2021, leading to 201 SARS-CoV-2 genomes being generated, the majority of which were identified as the Delta variant of concern. We show that in Rwanda, the Delta variant almost completely replaced the previously dominant A.23.1 and B.1.351 (Beta) lineages in a matter of weeks, and led to a tripling of the total number of COVID-19 infections and COVID-19-related fatalities over the course of only three months. We estimate that Delta in Rwanda had an average growth rate advantage of 0.034 (95% CI 0.025-0.045) per day over A.23.1, and of 0.022 (95% CI 0.012-0.032) over B.1.351. Phylogenetic analysis reveals the presence of at least seven local Delta transmission clusters, with two of these clusters occurring close to the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and another cluster close to the border with Tanzania. A smaller Delta cluster of infections also appeared close to the border with Uganda, illustrating the importance of monitoring cross-border traffic to limit the spread between Rwanda and its neighboring countries. We discuss our findings against a background of increased vaccination efforts in Rwanda, and also discuss a number of breakthrough infections identified during our study. Concluding, our study has added an important collection of data to the available genomes for the Eastern Africa region, with the number of Delta infections close to the border with neighboring countries highlighting the need to further strengthen genomic surveillance in the region to obtain a better understanding of the impact of border crossings on lowering the epidemic curve in Rwanda.

7.
researchsquare; 2022.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-RESEARCHSQUARE | ID: ppzbmed-10.21203.rs.3.rs-1479515.v1

ABSTRACT

COVID-19 vaccination has resulted in excellent protection against fatal disease, including in the elderly. However, risk factors for post-vaccination fatal COVID-19 are largely unknown. We comprehensively studied three large nursing home outbreaks (20-35% fatal cases) by combining SARS-CoV-2 aerosol monitoring, whole-genome phylogenetic analysis, and immunovirological profiling by digital nCounter transcriptomics. Phylogenetic investigations indicated each outbreak stemmed from a single introduction event, though with different variants (Delta, Gamma, and Mu). SARS-CoV-2 was detected in aerosol samples up to 52 days after the initial infection. Combining demographic, immune and viral parameters, the best predictive models for mortality comprised IFNB1 or age, viral ORF7a and ACE2 receptor transcripts. Comparison with published pre-vaccine fatal COVID-19 signatures and reanalysis of single-cell RNAseq data highlights the unique immune signature in post-vaccine fatal COVID-19 outbreaks. A multi-layered strategy including environmental sampling, immunomonitoring, and early antiviral therapy should be considered to prevent post-vaccination COVID-19 mortality in nursing homes.

8.
medrxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.03.09.22272066

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron BA.1 variant has been supplanted in many countries by the BA.2 sub-lineage. BA.2 differs from BA.1 by about 21 mutations in its spike. Human anti-spike monoclonalantibodies(mAbs)areusedforpreventionortreatmentofCOVID-19. However, the capacity of therapeutic mAbs to neutralize BA.1 and BA.2 remains poorly characterized. Here, we first compared the sensitivity of BA.1 and BA.2 to neutralization by 9 therapeutic mAbs. In contrast to BA.1, BA.2 was sensitive to Cilgavimab, partly inhibited by Imdevimab and resistant to Adintrevimab and Sotrovimab. Two combinations of mAbs, Ronapreve (Casirivimab + Imdevimab) and Evusheld (Cilgavimab + Tixagevimab), are indicated as a pre-exposure prophylaxis in immunocompromised persons at risk of severe disease. We analyzed sera from 29 such individuals, up to one month after administration of Ronapreve and/or Evusheld. After treatment, all individuals displayed elevated antibody levels in their sera and neutralized Delta with high titers. Ronapreve recipients did not neutralize BA.1 and weakly impaired BA.2. With Evusheld, neutralization of BA.1 and BA.2 was detected in 19 and 29 out of 29 patients, respectively. As compared to Delta, titers were more severely decreased against BA.1 (344-fold) than BA.2 (9-fold). We further report 4 breakthrough Omicron infections among the 29 participants. Therefore, BA.1 and BA.2 exhibit noticeable differences in their sensitivity to therapeutic mAbs. Anti-Omicron activity of Ronapreve, and to a lesser extent that of Evusheld, is reduced in patients sera, a phenomenon associated with decreased clinical efficacy.

9.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.12.14.21267606

ABSTRACT

The Delta variant of concern of SARS-CoV-2 has spread globally causing large outbreaks and resurgences of COVID-19 cases. The emergence of Delta in the UK occurred on the background of a heterogeneous landscape of immunity and relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions. 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 Delta's 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. Delta's 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.

10.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.12.17.21267362

ABSTRACT

Abstract Objectives: To better understand the conditions which have led to one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in Belgian nursing homes in 2020. Setting: A nursing home in Flanders, Belgium, which experienced a massive outbreak of COVID-19 after a cultural event. An external volunteer who dressed as a legendary figure visited consecutively the 4 living units and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 the next day. Within days, residents started to display symptoms and the outbreak spread rapidly within the nursing home. Methods: We interviewed key informants and collected standardized data from all residents retrospectively. A batch of 115 positive samples with a Ct value of <37 by qRT-PCR were analysed using whole-genome sequencing. Six months after the outbreak, ventilation assessment of gathering rooms in the nursing home was done using a tracer gas test with calibrated CO2 sensors. Results: Timeline of diagnoses and symptom onsets clearly pointed to the cultural event as the start of the outbreak, with the volunteer as index case. The genotyping of positive samples depicted the presence of one large cluster, suggesting a single source outbreak. The global attack rate among residents was 77% with a significant association between infection and presence at the event. Known risk factors such as short distance to or physical contact with the volunteer, and wearing of a mask during the event were not associated with early infection. The ventilation assessment showed a high background average CO2 level in four main rooms varying from 657 ppm to 846 ppm. Conclusions: Our investigation shows a rapid and widespread single source outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 in a nursing home, in which airborne transmission was the most plausible explanation for the massive intra-facility spread. Our results underscore the importance of ventilation and air quality for the prevention of future outbreaks in closed facilities.

11.
researchsquare; 2021.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-RESEARCHSQUARE | ID: ppzbmed-10.21203.rs.3.rs-1159614.v1

ABSTRACT

The Delta variant of concern of SARS-CoV-2 has spread globally causing large outbreaks and resurgences of COVID-19 cases. The emergence of Delta in the UK occurred on the background of a heterogeneous landscape of immunity and relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions. 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 Delta's 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. Delta’s 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.

12.
biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.11.12.468374

ABSTRACT

Current licensed COVID-19 vaccines are based on antigen sequences of initial SARS-CoV-2 isolates that emerged in 2019. By mid 2021 these historical virus strains have been completely replaced by new cosmopolitan SARS-CoV-2 lineages. The ongoing pandemic has been further driven by emerging variants of concern (VOC) Alpha, Beta, Gamma and, lately predominant, Delta. These are characterized by an increased transmissibility and possible escape from naturally acquired or vaccine-induced immunity. We here show, using a YF17D-vectored first-generation COVID-19 vaccine (Sanchez-Felipe et al., 2021) and a stringent hamster challenge model (Abdelnabi et al., 2021) that the immunity elicited by a prototypic spike antigen is insufficient to provide optimal protection against the Beta VoC, urging for an antigenic update. We therefore designed an updated second-generation vaccine candidate that carries the sequence of a spike antigen that includes crucial epitopes from multiple VOCs. This vaccine candidate yielded a marked change in target antigen spectrum covered as demonstrated by (i) antigenic cartography and (ii) full protection against infection and virus-induced disease caused by any of the four VOCs (Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta) used for challenge. This more universal COVID-19 vaccine candidate also efficiently blocked direct transmission of VOC Delta from vaccinated infected hamsters to non-vaccinated sentinels under prolonged co-housing conditions. In conclusion, our data suggest that current first-generation COVID-19 vaccines need to be adapted to cover emerging sequence diversity of VOC to preserve vaccine efficacy and to contain virus spread at the community level.

13.
researchsquare; 2021.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-RESEARCHSQUARE | ID: ppzbmed-10.21203.rs.3.rs-995033.v1

ABSTRACT

In spring 2021, an increasing number of infections was observed caused by the hitherto rarely described SARS-CoV-2 variant A.27 in south-west Germany. From December 2020 to June 2021 this lineage has been detected in 31 countries. Phylogeographic analyses of A.27 sequences obtained from national and international databases reveal a global spread of this lineage through multiple introductions from its inferred origin in Western Africa. Variant A.27 is characterized by a mutational pattern in the spike gene that includes the L18F, L452R and N501Y spike amino acid substitutions found in various variants of concern but lacks the globally dominant D614G. Neutralization assays demonstrated an escape of A.27 from convalescent and vaccine-elicited antibody-mediated immunity. Moreover, the therapeutic monoclonal antibody Bamlanivimab and partially the REGN-COV2 cocktail failed to block infection by A.27. Our data emphasize the need for continued global monitoring of novel lineages because of the independent evolution of new escape mutations.

14.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.08.21.21262393

ABSTRACT

Genomic sequencing provides critical information to track the evolution and spread of SARS-CoV-2, optimize molecular tests, treatments and vaccines, and guide public health responses. To investigate the spatiotemporal heterogeneity in the global SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance, we estimated the impact of sequencing intensity and turnaround times (TAT) on variant detection in 167 countries. Most countries submit genomes >21 days after sample collection, and 77% of low and middle income countries sequenced <0.5% of their cases. We found that sequencing at least 0.5% of the cases, with a TAT <21 days, could be a benchmark for SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance efforts. Socioeconomic inequalities substantially impact our ability to quickly detect SARS-CoV-2 variants, and undermine the global pandemic preparedness. One-Sentence SummarySocioeconomic inequalities impacted the SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance, and undermined the global pandemic preparedness.

15.
researchsquare; 2021.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-RESEARCHSQUARE | ID: ppzbmed-10.21203.rs.3.rs-753457.v1

ABSTRACT

Finland has had a low incidence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) infections as compared to most European countries. Here we report the origins and turnover of SARS-CoV-2 lineages circulating in Finland in 2020. SARS-CoV-2 introduced to Finland in January 2020 and spread rapidly across southern Finland during spring. We observed rapid turnover among Finnish lineages during this period. Clade 20C became the most prevalent among sequenced cases and was replaced by other strains in fall 2020. Bayesian phylogeographic reconstructions suggested 42 independent introductions into Finland during spring 2020, mainly from Italy, Austria, and Spain, which might have been the source for a third of cases. The investigations of the original introductions of SARS-CoV-2 to Finland during the early stages of the pandemic and of the subsequent lineage dynamics could be utilized to assess the role of transboundary movements and effects of early intervention and public health measures.

16.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.05.04.21256637

ABSTRACT

Many high-income countries have met the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic with overwhelming sequencing resources and have identified numerous distinct lineages, including some with notably altered biology. Over a year into the pandemic following unprecedented reductions in worldwide human mobility, distinct introduced lineages of SARS-CoV-2 without sequenced antecedents are increasingly discovered in high-income countries as a result of ongoing SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance initiatives. We here describe one such SARS-CoV-2 lineage, carrying many mutations and deletions in the spike protein shared with widespread variants of concern (VOCs), including E484K, S477N and deletions HV69del, Y144del, and LLA241/243del. This lineage - designated B.1.620 - is known to circulate in Lithuania and has now been found in several European states, but also in increasing numbers in central Africa owing to important recent increases in genome sequencing efforts on the continent. We provide evidence of likely ongoing local transmission of B.1.620 in Lithuania, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and the Central African Republic. We describe the suite of mutations this lineage carries, its potential to be resistant to neutralising antibodies, travel histories for a subset of the European cases, and evidence of local B.1.620 transmission in Europe. We make a case for the likely Central African origin of this lineage by providing travel records as well as the outcomes of carefully crafted phylogenetic and phylogeographic inference methodologies, the latter of which is able to exploit individual travel histories recorded for infected travellers having entered different European countries.

17.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.04.02.21254839

ABSTRACT

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), responsible for coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19), is a single-stranded positive-sense ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus that typically undergoes one to two single nucleotide mutations per month. COVID-19 continues to spread globally, with case fatality and test positivity rates often linked to locally circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, mutations in this virus, in particular those occurring in the spike protein (involved in the virus binding to the host epithelial cells) have potential implications in current vaccination efforts. In Rwanda, more than twenty thousand cases have been confirmed as of March 14th 2021, with a case fatality rate of 1.4% and test positivity rate of 2.3% while the recovery rate is at 91.9%. Rwanda started its genomic surveillance efforts, taking advantage of pre-existing research projects and partnerships, to ensure early detection of SARS-CoV-2 variants and to potentially contain the spread of variants of concern (VOC). As a result of this initiative, we here present 203 SARS-CoV-2 whole genome sequences analyzed from strains circulating in the country from May 2020 to February 2021. In particular, we report a shift in variant distribution towards the newly emerging sub-lineage A.23.1 that is currently dominating. Furthermore, we report the detection of the first Rwandan cases of the VOCs, B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, among incoming travelers tested at Kigali International Airport. We also discuss the potential impact of COVID-19 control measures established in the country to control the spread of the virus. To assess the importance of viral introductions from neighboring countries and local transmission, we exploit available individual travel history metadata to inform spatio-temporal phylogeographic inference, enabling us to take into account infections from unsampled locations during the time frame of interest. We uncover an important role of neighboring countries in seeding introductions into Rwanda, including those from which no genomic sequences are currently available or that no longer report positive cases. Our results point to the importance of systematically screening all incoming travelers, regardless of the origin of their travels as well as regional considerations for durable response to COVID-19.

18.
researchsquare; 2021.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-RESEARCHSQUARE | ID: ppzbmed-10.21203.rs.3.rs-208849.v1

ABSTRACT

Following the first wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections in spring 2020, Europe experienced a resurgence of the virus starting late summer that was deadlier and more difficult to contain. Relaxed intervention measures and summer travel have been implicated as drivers of the second wave. Here, we build a phylogeographic model to evaluate how newly introduced lineages, as opposed to the rekindling of persistent lineages, contributed to the COVID-19 resurgence in Europe. We inform this model using genomic, mobility and epidemiological data from 10 West European countries and estimate that in many countries more than 50% of the lineages circulating in late summer resulted from new introductions since June 15th. The success in onwards transmission of these lineages is predicted by SARS-CoV-2 incidence during this period. Relatively early introductions from Spain into the United Kingdom contributed to the successful spread of the 20A.EU1/B.1.177 variant. The pervasive spread of variants that have not been associated with an advantage in transmissibility highlights the threat of novel variants of concern that emerged more recently and have been disseminated by holiday travel. Our findings indicate that more effective and coordinated measures are required to contain spread through cross-border travel.

19.
biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.06.22.165464

ABSTRACT

Spatiotemporal bias in genome sequence sampling can severely confound phylogeographic inference based on discrete trait ancestral reconstruction. This has impeded our ability to accurately track the emergence and spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the availability of unprecedented numbers of SARS-CoV-2 genomes on a global scale, evolutionary reconstructions are hindered by the slow accumulation of sequence divergence over its relatively short transmission history. When confronted with these issues, incorporating additional contextual data may critically inform phylodynamic reconstructions. Here, we present a new approach to integrate individual travel history data in Bayesian phylogeographic inference and apply it to the early spread of SARS-CoV-2, while also including global air transportation data. We demonstrate that including travel history data for each SARS-CoV-2 genome yields more realistic reconstructions of virus spread, particularly when travelers from undersampled locations are included to mitigate sampling bias. We further explore methods to ameliorate the impact of sampling bias by augmenting the phylogeographic analysis with lineages from undersampled locations in the analyses. Our reconstructions reinforce specific transmission hypotheses suggested by the inclusion of travel history data, but also suggest alternative routes of virus migration that are plausible within the epidemiological context but are not apparent with current sampling efforts. Although further research is needed to fully examine the performance of our travel-aware phylogeographic analyses with unsampled diversity and to further improve them, they represent multiple new avenues for directly addressing the colossal issue of sample bias in phylogeographic inference.

20.
biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.05.05.078758

ABSTRACT

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented number of genomic sequences of the causative virus (SARS-CoV-2) have been generated and shared with the scientific community. The unparalleled volume of available genetic data presents a unique opportunity to gain real-time insights into the virus transmission during the pandemic, but also a daunting computational hurdle if analysed with gold-standard phylogeographic approaches. We here describe and apply an analytical pipeline that is a compromise between fast and rigorous analytical steps. As a proof of concept, we focus on the Belgium epidemic, with one of the highest spatial density of available SARS-CoV-2 genomes. At the global scale, our analyses confirm the importance of external introduction events in establishing multiple transmission chains in the country. At the country scale, our spatially-explicit phylogeographic analyses highlight that the national lockdown had a relatively low impact on both the lineage dispersal velocity and the long-distance dispersal events within Belgium. Our pipeline has the potential to be quickly applied to other countries or regions, with key benefits in complementing epidemiological analyses in assessing the impact of intervention measures or their progressive easement.

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