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medrxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.12.21.22283811


The antiviral Molnupiravir (Lageviro) is widely used across the world to treat SARS-CoV-2 infection. Molnupiravir reduces viral replication by inducing mutations throughout the genome, yet in patients that do not clear the infection, the longer-term impact of the drug on virus evolution is unclear. Here, we used a case-control approach to monitor SARS-CoV-2 genomes through time in nine immunocompromised -patients with five treated with Molnupiravir. Within days of treatment, we detected a large number of low-frequency mutations in patients and that these new mutations could persist and, in some cases, were fixed in the virus population. All patients treated with the drug accrued new mutations in the spike protein of the virus, including non-synonymous mutations that altered the amino acid sequence. Our study demonstrates that this commonly used antiviral can supercharge viral evolution in immunocompromised patients, potentially generating new variants and prolonging the pandemic.

ssrn; 2021.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-SSRN | ID: ppzbmed-10.2139.ssrn.3830366


BACKGROUND: A cornerstone of Australia’s ability to control COVID-19 has been effective border control, using an extensive supervised quarantine program. However, a rapid recrudescence in COVID-19 cases was observed in the state of Victoria in June 2020. Here, we describe the genomic findings that located the source of this second wave as a breach in supervised hotel quarantine and demonstrate the successful elimination of COVID-19 for a second time in Australia.METHODS: Genome sequencing was performed on all available SARS-CoV-2-positive samples in Victoria and integrated genomic and epidemiological investigation undertaken.RESULTS: At 31st January 2021, 20,451 COVID-19 cases were reported in Victoria; samples were sequenced from 75% of cases (15,431/20,451). Genomics revealed 98% (10,426/10,646) of locally-acquired cases during the second wave were derived from a single incursion from hotel quarantine, with the outbreak strain rapidly detected in other Australian states and territories. Phylodynamic analyses indicated an epidemic growth rate comparable to emerging variants, such as B.1.1.7 in the United Kingdom. Strict public health interventions resulted in the elimination of the outbreak strain by 29th October 2020. Subsequent cases represented independent international or interstate introductions, with limited local spread.CONCLUSIONS: Rapid escalation of clonal outbreaks can occur from even a single breach of control practices, as revealed through our genomic ‘enhanced outbreak-detection' system. The subsequent elimination and rapid control of new SARS-CoV-2 incursions reinforce that decisive public health responses to emergent cases are effective even with high epidemic growth rates, and “elimination” should be favored in settings where this is achievable.FUNDING STATEMENT: The Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory (MDU PHL) and the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) at The Doherty Institute are funded by the Victorian Government. This work was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia (NHMRC); Partnership Grant (APP1149991), Investigator Grant to BPH (APP1196103), Investigator Grant to DAW (APP1174555), Research Fellowship to TPS (APP1105525), MRFF COVID-19 Genomics Grant (MRF9200006).DECLARATION OF INTERESTS: None to declare. ETHICS APPROVAL STATEMENT: Data were collected in accordance with the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008. Ethical approval was received from the University of Melbourne Human Research Ethics Committee (study number 1954615.3).