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1.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21267606

ABSTRACT

The Delta variant of concern of SARS-CoV-2 has spread globally causing large outbreaks and resurgences of COVID-19 cases1-3. The emergence of Delta in the UK occurred on the background of a heterogeneous landscape of immunity and relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions4,5. Here we analyse 52,992 Delta genomes from England in combination with 93,649 global genomes to reconstruct the emergence of Delta, and quantify its introduction to and regional dissemination across England, in the context of changing travel and social restrictions. Through analysis of human movement, contact tracing, and virus genomic data, we find that the focus of geographic expansion of Delta shifted from India to a more global pattern in early May 2021. In England, Delta lineages were introduced >1,000 times and spread nationally as non-pharmaceutical interventions were relaxed. We find that hotel quarantine for travellers from India reduced onward transmission from importations; however the transmission chains that later dominated the Delta wave in England had been already seeded before restrictions were introduced. In England, increasing inter-regional travel drove Deltas nationwide dissemination, with some cities receiving >2,000 observable lineage introductions from other regions. Subsequently, increased levels of local population mixing, not the number of importations, was associated with faster relative growth of Delta. Among US states, we find that regions that previously experienced large waves also had faster Delta growth rates, and a model including interactions between immunity and human behaviour could accurately predict the rise of Delta there. Deltas invasion dynamics depended on fine scale spatial heterogeneity in immunity and contact patterns and our findings will inform optimal spatial interventions to reduce transmission of current and future VOCs such as Omicron.

2.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21267267

ABSTRACT

The scale of data produced during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has been unprecedented, with more than 5 million sequences shared publicly at the time of writing. This wealth of sequence data provides important context for interpreting local outbreaks. However, placing sequences of interest into national and international context is difficult given the size of the global dataset. Often outbreak investigations and genomic surveillance efforts require running similar analyses again and again on the latest dataset and producing reports. We developed civet (cluster investigation and virus epidemiology tool) to aid these routine analyses and facilitate virus outbreak investigation and surveillance. Civet can place sequences of interest in the local context of background diversity, resolving the query into different catchments and presenting the phylogenetic results alongside metadata in an interactive, distributable report. Civet can be used on a fine scale for clinical outbreak investigation, for local surveillance and cluster discovery, and to routinely summarise the virus diversity circulating on a national level. Civet reports have helped researchers and public health bodies feedback genomic information in the appropriate context within a timeframe that is useful for public health.

3.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21262680

ABSTRACT

Genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 has played a decisive role in understanding the transmission and evolution of the virus during its emergence and continued circulation. However, limited genomic sampling in many high-incidence countries has impeded detailed studies of SARS-CoV-2 genomic epidemiology. Consequently, critical questions remain about the generation and global distribution of virus genetic diversity. To address this gap, we investigated SARS-CoV-2 transmission dynamics in Gujarat, India, during its first epidemic wave and shed light on virus spread in one of the pandemics hardest-hit regions. By integrating regional case data and 434 whole virus genome sequences sampled across 20 districts from March to July 2020, we reconstructed the epidemic dynamics and spatial spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Gujarat, India. Our findings revealed that global and regional connectivity, along with population density, were significant drivers of the Gujarat SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. The three most populous districts in Gujarat accounted [~]84% of total cases during the first wave. Moreover, we detected over 100 virus lineage introductions, which were primarily associated with international travel. Within Gujarat, virus dissemination occurred predominantly from densely populated regions to geographically proximate locations with low-population density. Our findings suggest SARS-CoV-2 transmission follows a gravity model in India, with urban centres contributing disproportionately to onward virus spread.

4.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-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.1.1.7s set of mutations.

5.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21254685

ABSTRACT

Characterisation of SARS-CoV-2 genetic diversity through space and time can reveal trends in virus importation and domestic circulation, and permit the exploration of questions regarding the early transmission dynamics. Here we present a detailed description of SARS-CoV-2 genomic epidemiology in Ecuador, one of the hardest hit countries during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. We generate and analyse 160 whole genome sequences sampled from all provinces of Ecuador in 2020. Molecular clock and phylgeographic analysis of these sequences in the context of global SARS-CoV-2 diversity enable us to identify and characterise individual transmission lineages within Ecuador, explore their spatiotemporal distributions, and consider their introduction and domestic circulation. Our results reveal a pattern of multiple international importations across the country, with apparent differences between key provinces. Transmission lineages were mostly introduced before the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), with differential degrees of persistence and national dissemination.

6.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21252554

ABSTRACT

Cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Manaus, Brazil, resurged in late 2020, despite high levels of previous infection there. Through genome sequencing of viruses sampled in Manaus between November 2020 and January 2021, we identified the emergence and circulation of a novel SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern, lineage P.1, that acquired 17 mutations, including a trio in the spike protein (K417T, E484K and N501Y) associated with increased binding to the human ACE2 receptor. Molecular clock analysis shows that P.1 emergence occurred around early November 2020 and was preceded by a period of faster molecular evolution. Using a two-category dynamical model that integrates genomic and mortality data, we estimate that P.1 may be 1.4-2.2 times more transmissible and 25-61% more likely to evade protective immunity elicited by previous infection with non-P.1 lineages. Enhanced global genomic surveillance of variants of concern, which may exhibit increased transmissibility and/or immune evasion, is critical to accelerate pandemic responsiveness. One-Sentence SummaryWe report the evolution and emergence of a SARS-CoV-2 lineage of concern associated with rapid transmission in Manaus.

7.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20248677

ABSTRACT

The second SARS virus, SARS-CoV-2, emerged in December 2019, and within a month was globally distributed. It was first introduced into Scotland in February 2020 associated with returning travellers and visitors. By March it was circulating in communities across the UK, and to control COVID-19 cases, and prevent overwhelming of the National Health Service (NHS), a lockdown was introduced on 23rd March 2020 with a restriction of peoples movements. To augment the public health efforts a large-scale genome epidemiology effort (as part of the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium) resulted in the sequencing of over 5000 SARS-CoV-2 genomes by 18th August 2020 from Scottish cases, about a quarter of the estimated number of cases at that time. Here we quantify the geographical origins of the first wave introductions into Scotland from abroad and other UK regions, the spread of these SARS-CoV-2 lineages to different regions within Scotland (defined at the level of NHS Health Board) and the effect of lockdown on virus success. We estimate that approximately 300 introductions seeded lineages in Scotland, with around 25% of these lineages composed of more than five viruses, but by June circulating lineages were reduced to low levels, in line with low numbers of recorded positive cases. Lockdown was, thus, associated with a dramatic reduction in infection numbers and the extinguishing of most virus lineages. Unfortunately since the summer cases have been rising in Scotland in a second wave, with >1000 people testing positive on a daily basis, and hospitalisation of COVID-19 cases on the rise again. Examining the available Scottish genome data from the second wave, and comparing it to the first wave, we find that while some UK lineages have persisted through the summer, the majority of lineages responsible for the second wave are new introductions from outside of Scotland and many from outside of the UK. This indicates that, while lockdown in Scotland is directly linked with the first wave case numbers being brought under control, travel-associated imports (mostly from Europe or other parts of the UK) following the easing of lockdown are responsible for seeding the current epidemic population. This demonstrates that the impact of stringent public health measures can be compromised if following this, movements from regions of high to low prevalence are not minimised.

8.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20249034

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7, now designated Variant of Concern 202012/01 (VOC) by Public Health England, originated in the UK in late Summer to early Autumn 2020. We examine epidemiological evidence for this VOC having a transmission advantage from several perspectives. First, whole genome sequence data collected from community-based diagnostic testing provides an indication of changing prevalence of different genetic variants through time. Phylodynamic modelling additionally indicates that genetic diversity of this lineage has changed in a manner consistent with exponential growth. Second, we find that changes in VOC frequency inferred from genetic data correspond closely to changes inferred by S-gene target failures (SGTF) in community-based diagnostic PCR testing. Third, we examine growth trends in SGTF and non-SGTF case numbers at local area level across England, and show that the VOC has higher transmissibility than non-VOC lineages, even if the VOC has a different latent period or generation time. Available SGTF data indicate a shift in the age composition of reported cases, with a larger share of under 20 year olds among reported VOC than non-VOC cases. Fourth, we assess the association of VOC frequency with independent estimates of the overall SARS-CoV-2 reproduction number through time. Finally, we fit a semi-mechanistic model directly to local VOC and non-VOC case incidence to estimate the reproduction numbers over time for each. There is a consensus among all analyses that the VOC has a substantial transmission advantage, with the estimated difference in reproduction numbers between VOC and non-VOC ranging between 0.4 and 0.7, and the ratio of reproduction numbers varying between 1.4 and 1.8. We note that these estimates of transmission advantage apply to a period where high levels of social distancing were in place in England; extrapolation to other transmission contexts therefore requires caution.

9.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20218446

ABSTRACT

The UKs COVID-19 epidemic during early 2020 was one of worlds largest and unusually well represented by virus genomic sampling. Here we reveal the fine-scale genetic lineage structure of this epidemic through analysis of 50,887 SARS-CoV-2 genomes, including 26,181 from the UK sampled throughout the countrys first wave of infection. Using large-scale phylogenetic analyses, combined with epidemiological and travel data, we quantify the size, spatio-temporal origins and persistence of genetically-distinct UK transmission lineages. Rapid fluctuations in virus importation rates resulted in >1000 lineages; those introduced prior to national lockdown were larger and more dispersed. Lineage importation and regional lineage diversity declined after lockdown, whilst lineage elimination was size-dependent. We discuss the implications of our genetic perspective on transmission dynamics for COVID-19 epidemiology and control.

10.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20166082

ABSTRACT

Global dispersal and increasing frequency of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein variant D614G are suggestive of a selective advantage but may also be due to a random founder effect. We investigate the hypothesis for positive selection of Spike D614G in the United Kingdom using more than 25,000 whole genome SARS-CoV-2 sequences. Despite the availability of a large data set, well represented by both Spike 614 variants, not all approaches showed a conclusive signal of positive selection. Population genetic analysis indicates that 614G increases in frequency relative to 614D in a manner consistent with a selective advantage. We do not find any indication that patients infected with the Spike 614G variant have higher COVID-19 mortality or clinical severity, but 614G is associated with higher viral load and younger age of patients. Significant differences in growth and size of 614G phylogenetic clusters indicate a need for continued study of this variant.

11.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-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.

12.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20047076

ABSTRACT

COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and was first reported in central China in December 2019. Extensive molecular surveillance in Guangdong, Chinas most populous province, during early 2020 resulted in 1,388 reported RNA positive cases from 1.6 million tests. In order to understand the molecular epidemiology and genetic diversity of SARS-CoV-2 in China we generated 53 genomes from infected individuals in Guangdong using a combination of metagenomic sequencing and tiling amplicon approaches. Combined epidemiological and phylogenetic analyses indicate multiple independent introductions to Guangdong, although phylogenetic clustering is uncertain due to low virus genetic variation early in the pandemic. Our results illustrate how the timing, size and duration of putative local transmission chains were constrained by national travel restrictions and by the provinces large-scale intensive surveillance and intervention measures. Despite these successes, COVID-19 surveillance in Guangdong is still required as the number of cases imported from other countries is increasing. HighlightsO_LI1.6 million molecular diagnostic tests identified 1,388 SARS-CoV-2 infections in Guangdong Province, China, by 19th March 2020 C_LIO_LIVirus genomes can be recovered using a variety of sequencing approaches from a range of patient samples. C_LIO_LIGenomic analyses reveal multiple virus importations into Guangdong Province, resulting in genetically distinct clusters that require careful interpretation. C_LIO_LILarge-scale epidemiological surveillance and intervention measures were effective in interrupting community transmission in Guangdong C_LI

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