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medrxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.11.22.22282629


In many regions of the world, the Alpha, Beta and Gamma SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern (VOCs) co-circulated during 2020-21 and fueled waves of infections. During 2021, these variants were almost completely displaced by the Delta variant, causing a third wave of infections worldwide. This phenomenon of global viral lineage displacement was observed again in late 2021, when the Omicron variant disseminated globally. In this study, we use phylogenetic and phylogeographic methods to reconstruct the dispersal patterns of SARS-CoV-2 VOCs worldwide. We find that the source-sink dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 varied substantially by VOC, and identify countries that acted as global hubs of variant dissemination, while other countries became regional contributors to the export of specific variants. We demonstrate a declining role of presumed origin countries of VOCs to their global dispersal: we estimate that India contributed <15% of all global exports of Delta to other countries and South Africa <1-2% of all global Omicron exports globally. We further estimate that >80 countries had received introductions of Omicron BA.1 100 days after its inferred date of emergence, compared to just over 25 countries for the Alpha variant. This increased speed of global dissemination was associated with a rebound in air travel volume prior to Omicron emergence in addition to the higher transmissibility of Omicron relative to Alpha. Our study highlights the importance of global and regional hubs in VOC dispersal, and the speed at which highly transmissible variants disseminate through these hubs, even before their detection and characterization through genomic surveillance.

medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.06.19.21259169


Hong Kong utilized an elimination strategy with intermittent use of public health and social measures and increasingly stringent travel regulations to control SARS-CoV-2 transmission. By analyzing >1700 genome sequences representing 17% of confirmed cases from 23-January-2020 to 26-January-2021, we reveal the effects of fluctuating control measures on the evolution and epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 lineages in Hong Kong. Despite numerous importations, only three introductions were responsible for 90% of locally-acquired cases, two of which circulated cryptically for weeks while less stringent measures were in place. We found that SARS-CoV-2 within-host diversity was most similar among transmission pairs and epidemiological clusters due to a strong transmission bottleneck through which similar genetic background generates similar within-host diversity.