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Nature ; 599(7883): 114-119, 2021 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2114880


The B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was first identified in the state of Maharashtra in late 2020 and spread throughout India, outcompeting pre-existing lineages including B.1.617.1 (Kappa) and B.1.1.7 (Alpha)1. In vitro, B.1.617.2 is sixfold less sensitive to serum neutralizing antibodies from recovered individuals, and eightfold less sensitive to vaccine-elicited antibodies, compared with wild-type Wuhan-1 bearing D614G. Serum neutralizing titres against B.1.617.2 were lower in ChAdOx1 vaccinees than in BNT162b2 vaccinees. B.1.617.2 spike pseudotyped viruses exhibited compromised sensitivity to monoclonal antibodies to the receptor-binding domain and the amino-terminal domain. B.1.617.2 demonstrated higher replication efficiency than B.1.1.7 in both airway organoid and human airway epithelial systems, associated with B.1.617.2 spike being in a predominantly cleaved state compared with B.1.1.7 spike. The B.1.617.2 spike protein was able to mediate highly efficient syncytium formation that was less sensitive to inhibition by neutralizing antibody, compared with that of wild-type spike. We also observed that B.1.617.2 had higher replication and spike-mediated entry than B.1.617.1, potentially explaining the B.1.617.2 dominance. In an analysis of more than 130 SARS-CoV-2-infected health care workers across three centres in India during a period of mixed lineage circulation, we observed reduced ChAdOx1 vaccine effectiveness against B.1.617.2 relative to non-B.1.617.2, with the caveat of possible residual confounding. Compromised vaccine efficacy against the highly fit and immune-evasive B.1.617.2 Delta variant warrants continued infection control measures in the post-vaccination era.

Immune Evasion , SARS-CoV-2/growth & development , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Virus Replication/immunology , Antibodies, Neutralizing/immunology , COVID-19 Vaccines/immunology , Cell Fusion , Cell Line , Female , Health Personnel , Humans , India , Kinetics , Male , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Vaccination
Sci Rep ; 12(1): 10492, 2022 06 21.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1900659


Breakthrough infections with SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant have been reported in doubly-vaccinated recipients and as re-infections. Studies of viral spread within hospital settings have highlighted the potential for transmission between doubly-vaccinated patients and health care workers and have highlighted the benefits of high-grade respiratory protection for health care workers. However the extent to which vaccination is preventative of viral spread in health care settings is less well studied. Here, we analysed data from 118 vaccinated health care workers (HCW) across two hospitals in India, constructing two probable transmission networks involving six HCWs in Hospital A and eight HCWs in Hospital B from epidemiological and virus genome sequence data, using a suite of computational approaches. A maximum likelihood reconstruction of transmission involving known cases of infection suggests a high probability that doubly vaccinated HCWs transmitted SARS-CoV-2 between each other and highlights potential cases of virus transmission between individuals who had received two doses of vaccine. Our findings show firstly that vaccination may reduce rates of transmission, supporting the need for ongoing infection control measures even in highly vaccinated populations, and secondly we have described a novel approach to identifying transmissions that is scalable and rapid, without the need for an infection control infrastructure.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , Health Personnel , Humans , Infection Control , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Vaccination
Nat Commun ; 13(1): 751, 2022 02 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1684022


Understanding SARS-CoV-2 transmission in higher education settings is important to limit spread between students, and into at-risk populations. In this study, we sequenced 482 SARS-CoV-2 isolates from the University of Cambridge from 5 October to 6 December 2020. We perform a detailed phylogenetic comparison with 972 isolates from the surrounding community, complemented with epidemiological and contact tracing data, to determine transmission dynamics. We observe limited viral introductions into the university; the majority of student cases were linked to a single genetic cluster, likely following social gatherings at a venue outside the university. We identify considerable onward transmission associated with student accommodation and courses; this was effectively contained using local infection control measures and following a national lockdown. Transmission clusters were largely segregated within the university or the community. Our study highlights key determinants of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and effective interventions in a higher education setting that will inform public health policy during pandemics.

COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/transmission , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Universities , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/virology , Contact Tracing , Genome, Viral/genetics , Genomics , Humans , Phylogeny , RNA, Viral/genetics , Risk Factors , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Students , United Kingdom/epidemiology , Universities/statistics & numerical data
Mol Biol Evol ; 39(3)2022 03 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1672233


Identifying linked cases of infection is a critical component of the public health response to viral infectious diseases. In a clinical context, there is a need to make rapid assessments of whether cases of infection have arrived independently onto a ward, or are potentially linked via direct transmission. Viral genome sequence data are of great value in making these assessments, but are often not the only form of data available. Here, we describe A2B-COVID, a method for the rapid identification of potentially linked cases of COVID-19 infection designed for clinical settings. Our method combines knowledge about infection dynamics, data describing the movements of individuals, and evolutionary analysis of genome sequences to assess whether data collected from cases of infection are consistent or inconsistent with linkage via direct transmission. A retrospective analysis of data from two wards at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust during the first wave of the pandemic showed qualitatively different patterns of linkage between cases on designated COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 wards. The subsequent real-time application of our method to data from the second epidemic wave highlights its value for monitoring cases of infection in a clinical context.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Hospitals , Humans , Pandemics , Retrospective Studies , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
Lancet Microbe ; 3(2): e151-e158, 2022 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1440435


We reviewed all genomic epidemiology studies on COVID-19 in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) that had been published to date. We found that staff and residents were usually infected with identical, or near identical, SARS-CoV-2 genomes. Outbreaks usually involved one predominant cluster, and the same lineages persisted in LTCFs despite infection control measures. Outbreaks were most commonly due to single or few introductions followed by a spread rather than a series of seeding events from the community into LTCFs. The sequencing of samples taken consecutively from the same individuals at the same facilities showed the persistence of the same genome sequence, indicating that the sequencing technique was robust over time. When combined with local epidemiology, genomics allowed probable transmission sources to be better characterised. The transmission between LTCFs was detected in multiple studies. The mortality rate among residents was high in all facilities, regardless of the lineage. Bioinformatics methods were inadequate in a third of the studies reviewed, and reproducing the analyses was difficult because sequencing data were not available in many facilities.

COVID-19 , COVID-19/epidemiology , Disease Outbreaks , Genomics , Humans , Long-Term Care , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
Elife ; 102021 08 24.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1371047


SARS-CoV-2 is notable both for its rapid spread, and for the heterogeneity of its patterns of transmission, with multiple published incidences of superspreading behaviour. Here, we applied a novel network reconstruction algorithm to infer patterns of viral transmission occurring between patients and health care workers (HCWs) in the largest clusters of COVID-19 infection identified during the first wave of the epidemic at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK. Based upon dates of individuals reporting symptoms, recorded individual locations, and viral genome sequence data, we show an uneven pattern of transmission between individuals, with patients being much more likely to be infected by other patients than by HCWs. Further, the data were consistent with a pattern of superspreading, whereby 21% of individuals caused 80% of transmission events. Our study provides a detailed retrospective analysis of nosocomial SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and sheds light on the need for intensive and pervasive infection control procedures.

The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, presents a global public health challenge. Hospitals have been at the forefront of this battle, treating large numbers of sick patients over several waves of infection. Finding ways to manage the spread of the virus in hospitals is key to protecting vulnerable patients and workers, while keeping hospitals running, but to generate effective infection control, researchers must understand how SARS-CoV-2 spreads. A range of factors make studying the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in hospitals tricky. For instance, some people do not present any symptoms, and, amongst those who do, it can be difficult to determine whether they caught the virus in the hospital or somewhere else. However, comparing the genetic information of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from different people in a hospital could allow scientists to understand how it spreads. Samples of the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 can be obtained by swabbing infected individuals. If the genetic sequences of two samples are very different, it is unlikely that the individuals who provided the samples transmitted the virus to one another. Illingworth, Hamilton et al. used this information, along with other data about how SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted, to develop an algorithm that can determine how the virus spreads from person to person in different hospital wards. To build their algorithm, Illingworth, Hamilton et al. collected SARS-CoV-2 genetic data from patients and staff in a hospital, and combined it with information about how SARS-CoV-2 spreads and how these people moved in the hospital . The algorithm showed that, for the most part, patients were infected by other patients (20 out of 22 cases), while staff were infected equally by patients and staff. By further probing these data, Illingworth, Hamilton et al. revealed that 80% of hospital-acquired infections were caused by a group of just 21% of individuals in the study, identifying a 'superspreader' pattern. These findings may help to inform SARS-CoV-2 infection control measures to reduce spread within hospitals, and could potentially be used to improve infection control in other contexts.

COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/transmission , Disease Outbreaks/statistics & numerical data , Hospitals/statistics & numerical data , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Retrospective Studies
Elife ; 102021 08 13.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1357606


Monitoring the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and reconstructing transmission chains has become a major public health focus for many governments around the world. The modest mutation rate and rapid transmission of SARS-CoV-2 prevents the reconstruction of transmission chains from consensus genome sequences, but within-host genetic diversity could theoretically help identify close contacts. Here we describe the patterns of within-host diversity in 1181 SARS-CoV-2 samples sequenced to high depth in duplicate. 95.1% of samples show within-host mutations at detectable allele frequencies. Analyses of the mutational spectra revealed strong strand asymmetries suggestive of damage or RNA editing of the plus strand, rather than replication errors, dominating the accumulation of mutations during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Within- and between-host diversity show strong purifying selection, particularly against nonsense mutations. Recurrent within-host mutations, many of which coincide with known phylogenetic homoplasies, display a spectrum and patterns of purifying selection more suggestive of mutational hotspots than recombination or convergent evolution. While allele frequencies suggest that most samples result from infection by a single lineage, we identify multiple putative examples of co-infection. Integrating these results into an epidemiological inference framework, we find that while sharing of within-host variants between samples could help the reconstruction of transmission chains, mutational hotspots and rare cases of superinfection can confound these analyses.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had major health impacts across the globe. The scientific community has focused much attention on finding ways to monitor how the virus responsible for the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, spreads. One option is to perform genetic tests, known as sequencing, on SARS-CoV-2 samples to determine the genetic code of the virus and to find any differences or mutations in the genes between the viral samples. Viruses mutate within their hosts and can develop into variants that are able to more easily transmit between hosts. Genetic sequencing can reveal how genetically similar two SARS-CoV-2 samples are. But tracking how SARS-CoV-2 moves from one person to the next through sequencing can be tricky. Even a sample of SARS-CoV-2 viruses from the same individual can display differences in their genetic material or within-host variants. Could genetic testing of within-host variants shed light on factors driving SARS-CoV-2 to evolve in humans? To get to the bottom of this, Tonkin-Hill, Martincorena et al. probed the genetics of SARS-CoV-2 within-host variants using 1,181 samples. The analyses revealed that 95.1% of samples contained within-host variants. A number of variants occurred frequently in many samples, which were consistent with mutational hotspots in the SARS-CoV-2 genome. In addition, within-host variants displayed mutation patterns that were similar to patterns found between infected individuals. The shared within-host variants between samples can help to reconstruct transmission chains. However, the observed mutational hotspots and the detection of multiple strains within an individual can make this challenging. These findings could be used to help predict how SARS-CoV-2 evolves in response to interventions such as vaccines. They also suggest that caution is needed when using information on within-host variants to determine transmission between individuals.

COVID-19/genetics , COVID-19/physiopathology , Genetic Variation , Genome, Viral , Host-Pathogen Interactions/genetics , Mutation , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Base Sequence , Humans , Pandemics , Phylogeny
Elife ; 102021 03 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1112865


COVID-19 poses a major challenge to care homes, as SARS-CoV-2 is readily transmitted and causes disproportionately severe disease in older people. Here, 1167 residents from 337 care homes were identified from a dataset of 6600 COVID-19 cases from the East of England. Older age and being a care home resident were associated with increased mortality. SARS-CoV-2 genomes were available for 700 residents from 292 care homes. By integrating genomic and temporal data, 409 viral clusters within the 292 homes were identified, indicating two different patterns - outbreaks among care home residents and independent introductions with limited onward transmission. Approximately 70% of residents in the genomic analysis were admitted to hospital during the study, providing extensive opportunities for transmission between care homes and hospitals. Limiting viral transmission within care homes should be a key target for infection control to reduce COVID-19 mortality in this population.

COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/transmission , Nursing Homes , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Aged, 80 and over , COVID-19/virology , Disease Outbreaks , England/epidemiology , Female , Humans , Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional , Infectious Disease Transmission, Professional-to-Patient , Male , Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide , Sequence Analysis , Time Factors
Nat Commun ; 11(1): 6385, 2020 12 14.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-977267


The response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been hampered by lack of an effective severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) antiviral therapy. Here we report the use of remdesivir in a patient with COVID-19 and the prototypic genetic antibody deficiency X-linked agammaglobulinaemia (XLA). Despite evidence of complement activation and a robust T cell response, the patient developed persistent SARS-CoV-2 pneumonitis, without progressing to multi-organ involvement. This unusual clinical course is consistent with a contribution of antibodies to both viral clearance and progression to severe disease. In the absence of these confounders, we take an experimental medicine approach to examine the in vivo utility of remdesivir. Over two independent courses of treatment, we observe a temporally correlated clinical and virological response, leading to clinical resolution and viral clearance, with no evidence of acquired drug resistance. We therefore provide evidence for the antiviral efficacy of remdesivir in vivo, and its potential benefit in selected patients.

Adenosine Monophosphate/analogs & derivatives , Alanine/analogs & derivatives , Immunity, Humoral/drug effects , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , Adenosine Monophosphate/therapeutic use , Adult , Alanine/therapeutic use , Antiviral Agents/therapeutic use , COVID-19/virology , Fever/prevention & control , Humans , Immunity, Humoral/immunology , Lymphocyte Count , Male , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Treatment Outcome
Lancet Infect Dis ; 20(11): 1263-1272, 2020 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-643826


BACKGROUND: The burden and influence of health-care associated severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections is unknown. We aimed to examine the use of rapid SARS-CoV-2 sequencing combined with detailed epidemiological analysis to investigate health-care associated SARS-CoV-2 infections and inform infection control measures. METHODS: In this prospective surveillance study, we set up rapid SARS-CoV-2 nanopore sequencing from PCR-positive diagnostic samples collected from our hospital (Cambridge, UK) and a random selection from hospitals in the East of England, enabling sample-to-sequence in less than 24 h. We established a weekly review and reporting system with integration of genomic and epidemiological data to investigate suspected health-care associated COVID-19 cases. FINDINGS: Between March 13 and April 24, 2020, we collected clinical data and samples from 5613 patients with COVID-19 from across the East of England. We sequenced 1000 samples producing 747 high-quality genomes. We combined epidemiological and genomic analysis of the 299 patients from our hospital and identified 35 clusters of identical viruses involving 159 patients. 92 (58%) of 159 patients had strong epidemiological links and 32 (20%) patients had plausible epidemiological links. These results were fed back to clinical, infection control, and hospital management teams, leading to infection-control interventions and informing patient safety reporting. INTERPRETATION: We established real-time genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in a UK hospital and showed the benefit of combined genomic and epidemiological analysis for the investigation of health-care associated COVID-19. This approach enabled us to detect cryptic transmission events and identify opportunities to target infection-control interventions to further reduce health-care associated infections. Our findings have important implications for national public health policy as they enable rapid tracking and investigation of infections in hospital and community settings. FUNDING: COVID-19 Genomics UK funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, UK Research and Innovation, and the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

Betacoronavirus/genetics , Coronavirus Infections/epidemiology , Coronavirus Infections/prevention & control , Cross Infection/epidemiology , Cross Infection/prevention & control , Infection Control/methods , Pandemics/prevention & control , Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology , Pneumonia, Viral/prevention & control , Adolescent , Adult , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , COVID-19 , Child , Child, Preschool , Coronavirus Infections/virology , Cross Infection/virology , England/epidemiology , Female , Genome, Viral/genetics , Hospitals, University , Humans , Infant , Infant, Newborn , Male , Middle Aged , Patient Safety , Phylogeny , Pneumonia, Viral/virology , Polymerase Chain Reaction/methods , Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide , Prospective Studies , SARS-CoV-2 , Whole Genome Sequencing/methods , Young Adult
Elife ; 92020 05 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-236326


Significant differences exist in the availability of healthcare worker (HCW) SARS-CoV-2 testing between countries, and existing programmes focus on screening symptomatic rather than asymptomatic staff. Over a 3 week period (April 2020), 1032 asymptomatic HCWs were screened for SARS-CoV-2 in a large UK teaching hospital. Symptomatic staff and symptomatic household contacts were additionally tested. Real-time RT-PCR was used to detect viral RNA from a throat+nose self-swab. 3% of HCWs in the asymptomatic screening group tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. 17/30 (57%) were truly asymptomatic/pauci-symptomatic. 12/30 (40%) had experienced symptoms compatible with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)>7 days prior to testing, most self-isolating, returning well. Clusters of HCW infection were discovered on two independent wards. Viral genome sequencing showed that the majority of HCWs had the dominant lineage B∙1. Our data demonstrates the utility of comprehensive screening of HCWs with minimal or no symptoms. This approach will be critical for protecting patients and hospital staff.

Patients admitted to NHS hospitals are now routinely screened for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and isolated from other patients if necessary. Yet healthcare workers, including frontline patient-facing staff such as doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, are only tested and excluded from work if they develop symptoms of the illness. However, there is emerging evidence that many people infected with SARS-CoV-2 never develop significant symptoms: these people will therefore be missed by 'symptomatic-only' testing. There is also important data showing that around half of all transmissions of SARS-CoV-2 happen before the infected individual even develops symptoms. This means that much broader testing programs are required to spot people when they are most infectious. Rivett, Sridhar, Sparkes, Routledge et al. set out to determine what proportion of healthcare workers was infected with SARS-CoV-2 while also feeling generally healthy at the time of testing. Over 1,000 staff members at a large UK hospital who felt they were well enough to work, and did not fit the government criteria for COVID-19 infection, were tested. Amongst these, 3% were positive for SARS-CoV-2. On closer questioning, around one in five reported no symptoms, two in five very mild symptoms that they had dismissed as inconsequential, and a further two in five reported COVID-19 symptoms that had stopped more than a week previously. In parallel, healthcare workers with symptoms of COVID-19 (and their household contacts) who were self-isolating were also tested, in order to allow those without the virus to quickly return to work and bolster a stretched workforce. Finally, the rates of infection were examined to probe how the virus could have spread through the hospital and among staff ­ and in particular, to understand whether rates of infection were greater among staff working in areas devoted to COVID-19 patients. Despite wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, healthcare workers in these areas were almost three times more likely to test positive than those working in areas without COVID-19 patients. However, it is not clear whether this genuinely reflects greater rates of patients passing the infection to staff. Staff may give the virus to each other, or even acquire it at home. Overall, this work implies that hospitals need to be vigilant and introduce broad screening programmes across their workforces. It will be vital to establish such approaches before 'lockdown' is fully lifted, so healthcare institutions are prepared for any second peak of infections.

Asymptomatic Infections , Clinical Laboratory Techniques , Health Personnel , Betacoronavirus/physiology , COVID-19 , COVID-19 Testing , COVID-19 Vaccines , Coronavirus Infections/diagnosis , Coronavirus Infections/epidemiology , Coronavirus Infections/transmission , Female , Humans , Infection Control , Male , Pandemics , Pneumonia, Viral/diagnosis , Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology , Pneumonia, Viral/transmission , Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction , SARS-CoV-2 , United Kingdom/epidemiology