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1.
PLoS One ; 17(6): e0269071, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1910659

ABSTRACT

The rapid emergence and spread of numerous severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants across the globe underscores the crucial need for continuous SARS-CoV-2 surveillance to ensure that potentially more pathogenic variants are detected early and contained. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is currently the gold standard for COVID-19 surveillance; however, it remains cost-prohibitive and requires specialized technical skills. To increase surveillance capacity, especially in resource-scarce settings, supplementary methods that are cost- and time-effective are needed. Real-time multiplex PCR genotyping assays offer an economical and fast solution for screening circulating and emerging variants while simultaneously complementing existing WGS approaches. In this study we evaluated the AllplexTM SARS-CoV-2 Variants II multiplex real-time PCR genotyping assay, Seegene (South Korea), and implemented it in retrospectively characterizing circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants in a rural South African setting between April and October 2021, prior to the emergence of the Omicron variant in South Africa. The AllplexTM SARS-CoV-2 Variants II real-time PCR assay demonstrated perfect concordance with whole-genome sequencing in detecting Beta and Delta variants and exhibited high specificity, sensitivity and reproducibility. Implementation of the assay in characterization of SARS-CoV-2 variants between April and October 2021 in a rural South African setting revealed a rapid shift from the Beta to the Delta variant between April and June. All specimens successfully genotyped in April were Beta variants and the Delta variant was not detected until May. By June, 78% of samples genotyped were Delta variants and in July >95% of all genotyped samples were Delta variants. The Delta variant continued to predominate through to the end of our analysis in October 2021. Taken together, a commercial SARS-CoV-2 variant genotyping assay detected the rapid rate at which the Delta variant displaced the Beta variant in Limpopo, an under-monitored province in South Africa. Such assays provide a quick and cost-effective method of monitoring circulating variants and should be used to complement genomic sequencing for COVID-19 surveillance especially in resource-scarce settings.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/diagnosis , Genotype , Humans , Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction , Reproducibility of Results , Retrospective Studies , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
2.
Nat Med ; 2022 Jun 27.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1908212

ABSTRACT

Three lineages (BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3) of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Omicron variant of concern predominantly drove South Africa's fourth Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) wave. We have now identified two new lineages, BA.4 and BA.5, responsible for a fifth wave of infections. The spike proteins of BA.4 and BA.5 are identical, and similar to BA.2 except for the addition of 69-70 deletion (present in the Alpha variant and the BA.1 lineage), L452R (present in the Delta variant), F486V and the wild-type amino acid at Q493. The two lineages differ only outside of the spike region. The 69-70 deletion in spike allows these lineages to be identified by the proxy marker of S-gene target failure, on the background of variants not possessing this feature. BA.4 and BA.5 have rapidly replaced BA.2, reaching more than 50% of sequenced cases in South Africa by the first week of April 2022. Using a multinomial logistic regression model, we estimated growth advantages for BA.4 and BA.5 of 0.08 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.08-0.09) and 0.10 (95% CI: 0.09-0.11) per day, respectively, over BA.2 in South Africa. The continued discovery of genetically diverse Omicron lineages points to the hypothesis that a discrete reservoir, such as human chronic infections and/or animal hosts, is potentially contributing to further evolution and dispersal of the virus.

3.
J Med Virol ; 94(8): 3676-3684, 2022 Aug.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1849500

ABSTRACT

The circulation of Omicron BA.1 led to the rapid increase in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) cases in South Africa in November 2021, which warranted the use of more rapid detection methods. We, therefore, assessed the ability to detect Omicron BA.1 using genotyping assays to identify specific mutations in SARS-CoV-2 positive samples, Gauteng province, South Africa. The TaqPath™ COVID-19 real-time polymerase chain reaction assay was performed on all samples selected to identify spike gene target failure (SGTF). SARS-CoV-2 genotyping assays were used for the detection of del69/70 and K417N mutation. Whole-genome sequencing was performed on a subset of genotyped samples to confirm these findings. Of the positive samples received, 11.0% (175/1589) were randomly selected to assess if SGTF and genotyping assays, that detect del69/70 and K417N mutations, could identify Omicron BA.1. We identified SGTF in 98.9% (173/175) of samples, of which 88.0% (154/175) had both the del69/70 and K417N mutation. The genotyped samples (45.7%; 80/175) that were sequenced confirmed Omicron BA.1 (97.5%; 78/80). Our data show that genotyping for the detection of the del69/70 and K417N coupled with SGTF is efficient to exclude Alpha and Beta variants and rapidly detect Omicron BA.1. However, we still require assays for the detection of unique mutations that will allow for the differentiation between other Omicron sublineages. Therefore, the use of genotyping assays to detect new dominant or emerging lineages of SARS-CoV-2 will be beneficial in limited-resource settings.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/diagnosis , Genotype , Humans , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , South Africa , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics
4.
Nat Commun ; 13(1): 1976, 2022 04 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1783980

ABSTRACT

Global genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 has identified variants associated with increased transmissibility, neutralization resistance and disease severity. Here we report the emergence of the PANGO lineage C.1.2, detected at low prevalence in South Africa and eleven other countries. The initial C.1.2 detection is associated with a high substitution rate, and includes changes within the spike protein that have been associated with increased transmissibility or reduced neutralization sensitivity in SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern or variants of interest. Like Beta and Delta, C.1.2 shows significantly reduced neutralization sensitivity to plasma from vaccinees and individuals infected with the ancestral D614G virus. In contrast, convalescent donors infected with either Beta or Delta show high plasma neutralization against C.1.2. These functional data suggest that vaccine efficacy against C.1.2 will be equivalent to Beta and Delta, and that prior infection with either Beta or Delta will likely offer protection against C.1.2.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Antibodies, Neutralizing , Antibodies, Viral , Humans , Neutralization Tests , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics
5.
Lancet ; 399(10323): 437-446, 2022 01 29.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1641746

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant of concern was identified in South Africa in November, 2021, and was associated with an increase in COVID-19 cases. We aimed to assess the clinical severity of infections with the omicron variant using S gene target failure (SGTF) on the Thermo Fisher Scientific TaqPath COVID-19 PCR test as a proxy. METHODS: We did data linkages for national, South African COVID-19 case data, SARS-CoV-2 laboratory test data, SARS-CoV-2 genome data, and COVID-19 hospital admissions data. For individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 via TaqPath PCR tests, infections were designated as either SGTF or non-SGTF. The delta variant was identified by genome sequencing. Using multivariable logistic regression models, we assessed disease severity and hospitalisations by comparing individuals with SGTF versus non-SGTF infections diagnosed between Oct 1 and Nov 30, 2021, and we further assessed disease severity by comparing SGTF-infected individuals diagnosed between Oct 1 and Nov 30, 2021, with delta variant-infected individuals diagnosed between April 1 and Nov 9, 2021. FINDINGS: From Oct 1 (week 39), 2021, to Dec 6 (week 49), 2021, 161 328 cases of COVID-19 were reported in South Africa. 38 282 people were diagnosed via TaqPath PCR tests and 29 721 SGTF infections and 1412 non-SGTF infections were identified. The proportion of SGTF infections increased from two (3·2%) of 63 in week 39 to 21 978 (97·9%) of 22 455 in week 48. After controlling for factors associated with hospitalisation, individuals with SGTF infections had significantly lower odds of admission than did those with non-SGTF infections (256 [2·4%] of 10 547 vs 121 [12·8%] of 948; adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0·2, 95% CI 0·1-0·3). After controlling for factors associated with disease severity, the odds of severe disease were similar between hospitalised individuals with SGTF versus non-SGTF infections (42 [21%] of 204 vs 45 [40%] of 113; aOR 0·7, 95% CI 0·3-1·4). Compared with individuals with earlier delta variant infections, SGTF-infected individuals had a significantly lower odds of severe disease (496 [62·5%] of 793 vs 57 [23·4%] of 244; aOR 0·3, 95% CI 0·2-0·5), after controlling for factors associated with disease severity. INTERPRETATION: Our early analyses suggest a significantly reduced odds of hospitalisation among individuals with SGTF versus non-SGTF infections diagnosed during the same time period. SGTF-infected individuals had a significantly reduced odds of severe disease compared with individuals infected earlier with the delta variant. Some of this reduced severity is probably a result of previous immunity. FUNDING: The South African Medical Research Council, the South African National Department of Health, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the African Society of Laboratory Medicine, Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the Fleming Fund.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/physiopathology , Hospitalization/statistics & numerical data , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Severity of Illness Index , Adolescent , Adult , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/virology , COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing , Child , Child, Preschool , Female , Genome, Viral , Humans , Information Storage and Retrieval , Logistic Models , Male , Middle Aged , Multivariate Analysis , Odds Ratio , South Africa/epidemiology , Young Adult
6.
Nature ; 603(7902): 679-686, 2022 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1638766

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in southern Africa has been characterized by three distinct waves. The first was associated with a mix of SARS-CoV-2 lineages, while the second and third waves were driven by the Beta (B.1.351) and Delta (B.1.617.2) variants, respectively1-3. In November 2021, genomic surveillance teams in South Africa and Botswana detected a new SARS-CoV-2 variant associated with a rapid resurgence of infections in Gauteng province, South Africa. Within three days of the first genome being uploaded, it was designated a variant of concern (Omicron, B.1.1.529) by the World Health Organization and, within three weeks, had been identified in 87 countries. The Omicron variant is exceptional for carrying over 30 mutations in the spike glycoprotein, which are predicted to influence antibody neutralization and spike function4. Here we describe the genomic profile and early transmission dynamics of Omicron, highlighting the rapid spread in regions with high levels of population immunity.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/virology , Immune Evasion , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Antibodies, Neutralizing/immunology , Botswana/epidemiology , COVID-19/immunology , COVID-19/transmission , Humans , Models, Molecular , Mutation , Phylogeny , Recombination, Genetic , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , South Africa/epidemiology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/immunology
7.
2021.
Preprint in English | Other preprints | ID: ppcovidwho-296139

ABSTRACT

The Beta variant of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) emerged in South Africa in late 2020 and rapidly became the dominant variant, causing over 95% of infections in the country during and after the second epidemic wave. Here we show rapid replacement of the Beta variant by the Delta variant, a highly transmissible variant of concern (VOC) that emerged in India and subsequently spread around the world. The Delta variant was imported to South Africa primarily from India, spread rapidly in large monophyletic clusters to all provinces, and became dominant within three months of introduction. This was associated with a resurgence in community transmission, leading to a third wave which was associated with a high number of deaths. We estimated a growth advantage for the Delta variant in South Africa of 0.089 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.084-0.093) per day which corresponds to a transmission advantage of 46% (95% CI 44-48) compared to the Beta variant. These data provide additional support for the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant relative to other VOC and highlight how dynamic shifts in the distribution of variants contribute to the ongoing public health threat.

8.
2021.
Preprint in English | Other preprints | ID: ppcovidwho-295924

ABSTRACT

Global genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 has identified variants associated with increased transmissibility, neutralization resistance and disease severity. Here we report the emergence of the PANGO lineage C.1.2, detected at low prevalence in South Africa and eleven other countries. The emergence of C.1.2, associated with a high substitution rate, includes changes within the spike protein that have been associated with increased transmissibility or reduced neutralization sensitivity in SARS-CoV-2 VOC/VOIs. Like Beta and Delta, C.1.2 shows significantly reduced neutralization sensitivity to plasma from vaccinees and individuals infected with the ancestral D614G virus. In contrast, convalescent donors infected with either Beta or Delta showed high plasma neutralization against C.1.2. These functional data suggest that vaccine efficacy against C.1.2 will be equivalent to Beta and Delta, and that prior infection with either Beta or Delta will likely offer protection against C.1.2.

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