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Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-22271697


Long-term SARS-CoV-2 infections in immunodeficient patients are an important source of variation for the virus but are understudied. Many case studies have been published which describe one or a small number of long-term infected individuals but no study has combined these sequences into a cohesive dataset. This work aims to rectify this and study the genomics of this patient group through a combination of literature searches as well as identifying new case series directly from the COG-UK dataset. The spike gene receptor binding domain (RBD) and N-terminal domains (NTD) were identified as mutation hotspots. Numerous mutations associated with variants of concern were observed to emerge recurrently. Additionally a mutation in the envelope gene, - T30I was determined to be the most recurrent frequently occurring mutation arising in persistent infections. A high proportion of recurrent mutations in immunodeficient individuals are associated with ACE2 affinity, immune escape, or viral packaging optimisation. There is an apparent selective pressure for mutations which aid intra-host transmission or persistence which are often different to mutations which aid inter-host transmission, although the fact that multiple recurrent de novo mutations are considered defining for variants of concern strongly indicates that this potential source of novel variants should not be discounted.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21254839


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 collaborations for durable response to COVID-19.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20047076


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

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20043828


Since its emergence and detection in Wuhan, China in late 2019, the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has spread to nearly every country around the world, resulting in hundreds of thousands of infections to date. The virus was first detected in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States in January, 2020, with subsequent COVID-19 outbreaks detected in all 50 states by early March. To uncover the sources of SARS-CoV-2 introductions and patterns of spread within the U.S., we sequenced nine viral genomes from early reported COVID-19 patients in Connecticut. Our phylogenetic analysis places the majority of these genomes with viruses sequenced from Washington state. By coupling our genomic data with domestic and international travel patterns, we show that early SARS-CoV-2 transmission in Connecticut was likely driven by domestic introductions. Moreover, the risk of domestic importation to Connecticut exceeded that of international importation by mid-March regardless of our estimated impacts of federal travel restrictions. This study provides evidence for widespread, sustained transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within the U.S. and highlights the critical need for local surveillance.