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PubMed; 2021.
Preprint in English | PubMed | ID: ppcovidwho-330706


With the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants that may increase transmissibility and/or cause escape from immune responses 1-3 , there is an urgent need for the targeted surveillance of circulating lineages. It was found that the B.1.1.7 (also 501Y.V1) variant first detected in the UK 4,5 could be serendipitously detected by the ThermoFisher TaqPath COVID-19 PCR assay because a key deletion in these viruses, spike DELTA69-70, would cause a "spike gene target failure" (SGTF) result. However, a SGTF result is not definitive for B.1.1.7, and this assay cannot detect other variants of concern that lack spike DELTA69-70, such as B.1.351 (also 501Y.V2) detected in South Africa 6 and P.1 (also 501Y.V3) recently detected in Brazil 7 . We identified a deletion in the ORF1a gene (ORF1a DELTA3675-3677) in all three variants, which has not yet been widely detected in other SARS-CoV-2 lineages. Using ORF1a DELTA3675-3677 as the primary target and spike DELTA69-70 to differentiate, we designed and validated an open source PCR assay to detect SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern 8 . Our assay can be rapidly deployed in laboratories around the world to enhance surveillance for the local emergence spread of B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1.

PubMed; 2021.
Preprint in English | PubMed | ID: ppcovidwho-296584


The emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, may compromise the ability of vaccine and previous infection (1) elicited immunity to protect against new infection. Here we investigated whether Omicron escapes antibody neutralization elicited by the Pfizer BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine in people who were vaccinated only or vaccinated and previously infected. We also investigated whether the virus still requires binding to the ACE2 receptor to infect cells. We isolated and sequence confirmed live Omicron virus from an infected person in South Africa. We then compared neutralization of this virus relative to an ancestral SARS-CoV-2 strain with the D614G mutation. Neutralization was by blood plasma from South African BNT162b2 vaccinated individuals. We observed that Omicron still required the ACE2 receptor to infect but had extensive escape of Pfizer elicited neutralization. However, 5 out of 6 of the previously infected, Pfizer vaccinated individuals, all of them with high neutralization of D614G virus, showed residual neutralization at levels expected to confer protection from infection and severe disease (2). While vaccine effectiveness against Omicron is still to be determined, these data support the notion that high neutralization capacity elicited by a combination of infection and vaccination, and possibly by boosting, could maintain reasonable effectiveness against Omicron. If neutralization capacity is lower or wanes with time, protection against infection is likely to be low. However, protection against severe disease, requiring lower neutralization levels and involving T cell immunity, would likely be maintained.

Preprint in English | Other preprints | ID: ppcovidwho-295924


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.