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1.
Virus Evol ; 8(2): veac054, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1931907

ABSTRACT

Recombination contributes to the genetic diversity found in coronaviruses and is known to be a prominent mechanism whereby they evolve. It is apparent, both from controlled experiments and in genome sequences sampled from nature, that patterns of recombination in coronaviruses are non-random and that this is likely attributable to a combination of sequence features that favour the occurrence of recombination break points at specific genomic sites, and selection disfavouring the survival of recombinants within which favourable intra-genome interactions have been disrupted. Here we leverage available whole-genome sequence data for six coronavirus subgenera to identify specific patterns of recombination that are conserved between multiple subgenera and then identify the likely factors that underlie these conserved patterns. Specifically, we confirm the non-randomness of recombination break points across all six tested coronavirus subgenera, locate conserved recombination hot- and cold-spots, and determine that the locations of transcriptional regulatory sequences are likely major determinants of conserved recombination break-point hotspot locations. We find that while the locations of recombination break points are not uniformly associated with degrees of nucleotide sequence conservation, they display significant tendencies in multiple coronavirus subgenera to occur in low guanine-cytosine content genome regions, in non-coding regions, at the edges of genes, and at sites within the Spike gene that are predicted to be minimally disruptive of Spike protein folding. While it is apparent that sequence features such as transcriptional regulatory sequences are likely major determinants of where the template-switching events that yield recombination break points most commonly occur, it is evident that selection against misfolded recombinant proteins also strongly impacts observable recombination break-point distributions in coronavirus genomes sampled from nature.

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.
Nat Commun ; 13(1): 3645, 2022 06 25.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1908172

ABSTRACT

Recombination is an evolutionary process by which many pathogens generate diversity and acquire novel functions. Although a common occurrence during coronavirus replication, detection of recombination is only feasible when genetically distinct viruses contemporaneously infect the same host. Here, we identify an instance of SARS-CoV-2 superinfection, whereby an individual was infected with two distinct viral variants: Alpha (B.1.1.7) and Epsilon (B.1.429). This superinfection was first noted when an Alpha genome sequence failed to exhibit the classic S gene target failure behavior used to track this variant. Full genome sequencing from four independent extracts reveals that Alpha variant alleles comprise around 75% of the genomes, whereas the Epsilon variant alleles comprise around 20% of the sample. Further investigation reveals the presence of numerous recombinant haplotypes spanning the genome, specifically in the spike, nucleocapsid, and ORF 8 coding regions. These findings support the potential for recombination to reshape SARS-CoV-2 genetic diversity.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Superinfection , Genome, Viral/genetics , Humans , New York City/epidemiology , Recombination, Genetic , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics
4.
Viruses ; 14(5)2022 04 21.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1822442

ABSTRACT

A canine coronavirus (CCoV) has now been reported from two independent human samples from Malaysia (respiratory, collected in 2017-2018; CCoV-HuPn-2018) and Haiti (urine, collected in 2017); these two viruses were nearly genetically identical. In an effort to identify any novel adaptations associated with this apparent shift in tropism we carried out detailed evolutionary analyses of the spike gene of this virus in the context of related Alphacoronavirus 1 species. The spike 0-domain retains homology to CCoV2b (enteric infections) and Transmissible Gastroenteritis Virus (TGEV; enteric and respiratory). This domain is subject to relaxed selection pressure and an increased rate of molecular evolution. It contains unique amino acid substitutions, including within a region important for sialic acid binding and pathogenesis in TGEV. Overall, the spike gene is extensively recombinant, with a feline coronavirus type II strain serving a prominent role in the recombinant history of the virus. Molecular divergence time for a segment of the gene where temporal signal could be determined, was estimated at around 60 years ago. We hypothesize that the virus had an enteric origin, but that it may be losing that particular tropism, possibly because of mutations in the sialic acid binding region of the spike 0-domain.


Subject(s)
Coronavirus, Canine , Animals , Cats , Dogs , N-Acetylneuraminic Acid , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Tropism , Zoonoses
5.
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
6.
Mol Biol Evol ; 39(4)2022 04 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1758789

ABSTRACT

Among the 30 nonsynonymous nucleotide substitutions in the Omicron S-gene are 13 that have only rarely been seen in other SARS-CoV-2 sequences. These mutations cluster within three functionally important regions of the S-gene at sites that will likely impact (1) interactions between subunits of the Spike trimer and the predisposition of subunits to shift from down to up configurations, (2) interactions of Spike with ACE2 receptors, and (3) the priming of Spike for membrane fusion. We show here that, based on both the rarity of these 13 mutations in intrapatient sequencing reads and patterns of selection at the codon sites where the mutations occur in SARS-CoV-2 and related sarbecoviruses, prior to the emergence of Omicron the mutations would have been predicted to decrease the fitness of any virus within which they occurred. We further propose that the mutations in each of the three clusters therefore cooperatively interact to both mitigate their individual fitness costs, and, in combination with other mutations, adaptively alter the function of Spike. Given the evident epidemic growth advantages of Omicron overall previously known SARS-CoV-2 lineages, it is crucial to determine both how such complex and highly adaptive mutation constellations were assembled within the Omicron S-gene, and why, despite unprecedented global genomic surveillance efforts, the early stages of this assembly process went completely undetected.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus , COVID-19/genetics , Humans , Mutation , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics
7.
Lancet Infect Dis ; 22(6): 813-820, 2022 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1747395

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The SARS-CoV-2 omicron (B.1.1.529) variant, which was first identified in November, 2021, spread rapidly in many countries, with a spike protein highly diverged from previously known variants, and raised concerns that this variant might evade neutralising antibody responses. We therefore aimed to characterise the sensitivity of the omicron variant to neutralisation. METHODS: For this cross-sectional study, we cloned the sequence encoding the omicron spike protein from a diagnostic sample to establish an omicron pseudotyped virus neutralisation assay. We quantified the neutralising antibody ID50 (the reciprocal dilution that produces 50% inhibition) against the omicron spike protein, and the fold-change in ID50 relative to the spike of wild-type SARS-CoV-2 (ie, the pandemic founder variant), for one convalescent reference plasma pool (WHO International Standard for anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin [20/136]), three reference serum pools from vaccinated individuals, and two cohorts from Stockholm, Sweden: one comprising previously infected hospital workers (17 sampled in November, 2021, after vaccine rollout and nine in June or July, 2020, before vaccination) and one comprising serum from 40 randomly sampled blood donors donated during week 48 (Nov 29-Dec 5) of 2021. Furthermore, we assessed the neutralisation of omicron by five clinically relevant monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). FINDINGS: Neutralising antibody responses in reference sample pools sampled shortly after infection or vaccination were substantially less potent against the omicron variant than against wild-type SARS-CoV-2 (seven-fold to 42-fold reduction in ID50 titres). Similarly, for sera obtained before vaccination in 2020 from a cohort of convalescent hospital workers, neutralisation of the omicron variant was low to undetectable (all ID50 titres <20). However, in serum samples obtained in 2021 from two cohorts in Stockholm, substantial cross-neutralisation of the omicron variant was observed. Sera from 17 hospital workers after infection and subsequent vaccination had a reduction in average potency of only five-fold relative to wild-type SARS-CoV-2 (geometric mean ID50 titre 495 vs 105), and two donors had no reduction in potency. A similar pattern was observed in randomly sampled blood donors (n=40), who had an eight-fold reduction in average potency against the omicron variant compared with wild-type SARS-CoV-2 (geometric mean ID50 titre 369 vs 45). We found that the omicron variant was resistant to neutralisation (50% inhibitory concentration [IC50] >10 µg/mL) by mAbs casirivimab (REGN-10933), imdevimab (REGN-10987), etesevimab (Ly-CoV016), and bamlanivimab (Ly-CoV555), which form part of antibody combinations used in the clinic to treat COVID-19. However, S309, the parent of sotrovimab, retained most of its activity, with only an approximately two-fold reduction in potency against the omicron variant compared with ancestral D614G SARS-CoV-2 (IC50 0·1-0·2 µg/mL). INTERPRETATION: These data highlight the extensive, but incomplete, evasion of neutralising antibody responses by the omicron variant, and suggest that boosting with licensed vaccines might be sufficient to raise neutralising antibody titres to protective levels. FUNDING: European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, SciLifeLab, and the Erling-Persson Foundation.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Antibodies, Monoclonal , Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized , Antibodies, Neutralizing , Antibodies, Viral , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19 Vaccines , Cross-Sectional Studies , Humans , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics
8.
Science ; 374(6566): 423-431, 2021 Oct 22.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1483977

ABSTRACT

The progression of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic in Africa has so far been heterogeneous, and the full impact is not yet well understood. In this study, we describe the genomic epidemiology using a dataset of 8746 genomes from 33 African countries and two overseas territories. We show that the epidemics in most countries were initiated by importations predominantly from Europe, which diminished after the early introduction of international travel restrictions. As the pandemic progressed, ongoing transmission in many countries and increasing mobility led to the emergence and spread within the continent of many variants of concern and interest, such as B.1.351, B.1.525, A.23.1, and C.1.1. Although distorted by low sampling numbers and blind spots, the findings highlight that Africa must not be left behind in the global pandemic response, otherwise it could become a source for new variants.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Epidemiological Monitoring , Genomics , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Africa/epidemiology , COVID-19/transmission , COVID-19/virology , Genetic Variation , Humans , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification
10.
Cell ; 184(20): 5189-5200.e7, 2021 09 30.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1401295

ABSTRACT

The independent emergence late in 2020 of the B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1 lineages of SARS-CoV-2 prompted renewed concerns about the evolutionary capacity of this virus to overcome public health interventions and rising population immunity. Here, by examining patterns of synonymous and non-synonymous mutations that have accumulated in SARS-CoV-2 genomes since the pandemic began, we find that the emergence of these three "501Y lineages" coincided with a major global shift in the selective forces acting on various SARS-CoV-2 genes. Following their emergence, the adaptive evolution of 501Y lineage viruses has involved repeated selectively favored convergent mutations at 35 genome sites, mutations we refer to as the 501Y meta-signature. The ongoing convergence of viruses in many other lineages on this meta-signature suggests that it includes multiple mutation combinations capable of promoting the persistence of diverse SARS-CoV-2 lineages in the face of mounting host immune recognition.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Evolution, Molecular , Mutation , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Amino Acid Sequence/genetics , COVID-19/immunology , COVID-19/transmission , COVID-19/virology , Codon/genetics , Genes, Viral , Genetic Drift , Host Adaptation/genetics , Humans , Immune Evasion , Phylogeny , Public Health
11.
Virus Evol ; 7(1): veab041, 2021 Jan.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1243512

ABSTRACT

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes acute, highly transmissible respiratory infection in humans and a wide range of animal species. Its rapid global spread has resulted in a major public health emergency, necessitating commensurately rapid research to improve control strategies. In particular, the ability to effectively retrace transmission chains in outbreaks remains a major challenge, partly due to our limited understanding of the virus' underlying evolutionary dynamics within and between hosts. We used high-throughput sequencing whole-genome data coupled with bottleneck analysis to retrace the pathways of viral transmission in two nosocomial outbreaks that were previously characterised by epidemiological and phylogenetic methods. Additionally, we assessed the mutational landscape, selection pressures, and diversity at the within-host level for both outbreaks. Our findings show evidence of within-host selection and transmission of variants between samples. Both bottleneck and diversity analyses highlight within-host and consensus-level variants shared by putative source-recipient pairs in both outbreaks, suggesting that certain within-host variants in these outbreaks may have been transmitted upon infection rather than arising de novo independently within multiple hosts. Overall, our findings demonstrate the utility of combining within-host diversity and bottleneck estimations for elucidating transmission events in SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks, provide insight into the maintenance of viral genetic diversity, provide a list of candidate targets of positive selection for further investigation, and demonstrate that within-host variants can be transferred between patients. Together these results will help in developing strategies to understand the nature of transmission events and curtail the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

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