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1.
Virus evolution ; 8(2), 2022.
Article in English | EuropePMC | ID: covidwho-1999627

ABSTRACT

Long-term severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (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 COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) dataset. The spike gene receptor-binding domain and N-terminal domain (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 second most frequent recurrently 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 that aid cell–cell transmission within the host or persistence which are often different from mutations that 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.

2.
Nature ; 2022 Aug 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1991629

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant of concern spread globally, causing resurgences of COVID-19 worldwide1,2. Delta's emergence in the UK occurred on the background of a heterogeneous landscape of immunity and relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions. Here we analyse 52,992 virus genomes from England together with 93,649 global genomes to reconstruct the emergence of Delta, and quantify its introduction to and regional dissemination across England in the context of changing travel and social restrictions. Through analysis of human movement, contact tracing, and virus genomic data, we find that the geographic focus of Delta's expansion shifted from India to a more global pattern in early May 2021. In England, Delta lineages were introduced >1,000 times and spread nationally as non-pharmaceutical interventions were relaxed. We find that hotel quarantine for travellers reduced onward transmission from importations; however transmission chains that later dominated England's Delta wave were seeded before travel restrictions were introduced. Increasing inter-regional travel within England drove Delta's nationwide dissemination, with some cities receiving >2,000 observable lineage introductions from elsewhere. Subsequently, increased levels of local population mixing, not the number of importations, were associated with faster relative growth of Delta. Delta's invasion dynamics depended on spatial heterogeneity in contact patterns, and our findings will inform optimal spatial interventions to reduce transmission of current and future variant of concern, such as Omicron.

3.
Nat Microbiol ; 7(8): 1180-1188, 2022 Aug.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1931412

ABSTRACT

SARS-CoV-2 variants may threaten the effectiveness of vaccines and antivirals to mitigate serious COVID-19 disease. This is of most concern in clinically vulnerable groups such as older adults. We analysed 72 sera samples from 37 individuals, aged 70-89 years, vaccinated with two doses of BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) 3 weeks apart, for neutralizing antibody responses to wildtype SARS-CoV-2. Between 3 and 20 weeks after the second vaccine dose, neutralizing antibody titres fell 4.9-fold to a median titre of 21.3 (neutralization dose 80%), with 21.6% of individuals having no detectable neutralizing antibodies at the later time point. Next, we examined neutralization of 21 distinct SARS-CoV-2 variant spike proteins with these sera, and confirmed substantial antigenic escape, especially for the Omicron (B.1.1.529, BA.1/BA.2), Beta (B.1.351), Delta (B.1.617.2), Theta (P.3), C.1.2 and B.1.638 spike variants. By combining pseudotype neutralization with specific receptor-binding domain (RBD) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, we showed that changes to position 484 in the spike RBD were mainly responsible for SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody escape. Nineteen sera from the same individuals boosted with a third dose of BNT162b2 contained higher neutralizing antibody titres, providing cross-protection against Omicron BA.1 and BA.2. Despite SARS-CoV-2 immunity waning over time in older adults, booster vaccines can elicit broad neutralizing antibodies against a large number of SARS-CoV-2 variants in this clinically vulnerable cohort.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Aged , Antibodies, Neutralizing , Antibodies, Viral , BNT162 Vaccine , COVID-19/prevention & control , Humans , Membrane Glycoproteins/chemistry , Neutralization Tests , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Viral Envelope Proteins/chemistry
4.
Emerg Infect Dis ; 28(7): 1442-1445, 2022 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1917186

ABSTRACT

To detect new and changing SARS-CoV-2 variants, we investigated candidate Delta-Omicron recombinant genomes from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national genomic surveillance. Laboratory and bioinformatic investigations identified and validated 9 genetically related SARS-CoV-2 viruses with a hybrid Delta-Omicron spike protein.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/epidemiology , Computational Biology , Humans , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , United States/epidemiology
5.
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.

7.
EuropePMC; 2022.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-337649

ABSTRACT

Over the course of the pandemic variants have arisen at a steady rate. The most recent variants to emerge, BA.4 and BA.5, form part of the Omicron lineage and were first found in Southern Africa where they are driving the current wave of infection. In this report, we perform an in-depth characterisation of the antigenicity of the BA.4/BA.5 Spike protein by comparing sera collected post-vaccination, post-BA.1 or BA.2 infection, or post breakthrough infection of vaccinated individuals with the Omicron variant. In addition, we assess sensitivity to neutralisation by commonly used therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. We find sera collected post-vaccination have a similar ability to neutralise BA.1, BA.2 and BA.4/BA.5. In contrast, in the absence of vaccination, prior infection with BA.2 or, in particular, BA.1 results in an antibody response that neutralises BA.4/BA.5 poorly. Breakthrough infection with Omicron in vaccinees leads to a broad neutralising response against the new variants. The sensitivity of BA.4/BA.5 to neutralisation by therapeutic monoclonal antibodies was similar to that of BA.2. These data suggest BA.4/BA.5 are antigenically distinct from BA.1 and, to a lesser extent, BA.2. The enhanced breadth of neutralisation observed following breakthrough infection with Omicron suggests that vaccination with heterologous or multivalent antigens may represent viable strategies for the development of cross-neutralising antibody responses.

9.
EuropePMC; 2022.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-337014

ABSTRACT

The second and third years of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic have been marked by the repeated emergence and replacement of ‘variants’ with genetic and phenotypic distance from the ancestral strains, the most recent examples being Delta and Omicron. Here we describe a hamster contact exposure challenge model to assess protection conferred by vaccination or prior infection against re-infection. We found that 2-doses of self-amplifying RNA vaccine based on the ancestral spike ameliorated weight loss following Delta infection and decreased viral loads, but had minimal effect on Omicron/BA.1 infection. Prior infection with ancestral or Alpha variant was partially protective against Omicron/BA.1 infection, whereas all animals previously infected with Delta and exposed to Omicron became infected, although shed less virus. We further tested whether prior infection with Omicron/BA.1 protected from re-infection with Delta or Omicron/BA.2. Omicron/BA.1 was protective against Omicron/BA.2, but not Delta reinfection, again showing Delta and Omicron have a very large antigenic distance. Indeed, cross-neutralisation assays with human antisera from otherwise immunonaïve individuals (unvaccinated and no known prior infection), confirmed a large antigenic distance between Delta and Omicron. Prior vaccination followed by Omicron or Delta breakthrough infection led to a higher degree of cross-reactivity to all tested variants. To conclude, cohorts whose only immune experience of COVID is Omicron/BA.1 infection may be particularly vulnerable to future circulation of Delta or Delta-like derivatives. In contrast, repeated exposure to antigenically distinct spikes, via infection and or vaccination drives a more cross-reactive immune response, both in hamsters and people. One Sentence Summary Infection with the Delta and Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variants do not provide cross-protective immunity against reinfection with one another in hamsters.

10.
EuropePMC; 2022.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-335264

ABSTRACT

South Africa’s fourth COVID-19 wave was driven predominantly by three lineages (BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3) of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant of concern. We have now identified two new lineages, BA.4 and BA.5. The spike proteins of BA.4 and BA.5 are identical, and comparable to BA.2 except for the addition of 69-70del, L452R, F486V and the wild type amino acid at Q493. The 69-70 deletion in spike allows these lineages to be identified by the proxy marker of S-gene target failure with the TaqPath™ COVID-19 qPCR assay. BA.4 and BA.5 have rapidly replaced BA.2, reaching more than 50% of sequenced cases in South Africa from the first week of April 2022 onwards. Using a multinomial logistic regression model, we estimate growth advantages for BA.4 and BA.5 of 0.08 (95% CI: 0.07 - 0.09) and 0.12 (95% CI: 0.09 - 0.15) per day respectively over BA.2 in South Africa.

11.
EuropePMC; 2022.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-335169

ABSTRACT

Two mutations occurred in SARS-CoV-2 early during the COVID-19 pandemic that have come to define circulating virus lineages 1 first a change in the spike protein (D614G) that defines the B.1 lineage and second, a double substitution in the nucleocapsid protein (R203K, G204R) that defines the B.1.1 lineage, which has subsequently given rise to three Variants of Concern: Alpha, Gamma and Omicron. While the latter mutations appear unremarkable at the protein level, there are dramatic implications at the nucleotide level: the GGG→AAC substitution generates a new Transcription Regulatory Sequence (TRS) motif, driving SARS-CoV-2 to express a novel subgenomic mRNA (sgmRNA) encoding a truncated C-terminal portion of nucleocapsid (N.iORF3), which is an inhibitor of type I interferon production. We find that N.iORF3 also emerged independently within the Iota variant, and further show that additional TRS motifs have convergently evolved to express novel sgmRNAs;notably upstream of Spike within the nsp16 coding region of ORF1b, which is expressed during human infection. Our findings demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 is undergoing evolutionary changes at the functional RNA level in addition to the amino acid level, reminiscent of eukaryotic evolution. Greater attention to this aspect in the assessment of emerging strains of SARS-CoV-2 is warranted.

12.
Virus Evol ; 8(1): veac023, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1795112

ABSTRACT

COG-UK Mutation Explorer (COG-UK-ME, https://sars2.cvr.gla.ac.uk/cog-uk/-last accessed date 16 March 2022) is a web resource that displays knowledge and analyses on SARS-CoV-2 virus genome mutations and variants circulating in the UK, with a focus on the observed amino acid replacements that have an antigenic role in the context of the human humoral and cellular immune response. This analysis is based on more than 2 million genome sequences (as of March 2022) for UK SARS-CoV-2 data held in the CLIMB-COVID centralised data environment. COG-UK-ME curates these data and displays analyses that are cross-referenced to experimental data collated from the primary literature. The aim is to track mutations of immunological importance that are accumulating in current variants of concern and variants of interest that could alter the neutralising activity of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), convalescent sera, and vaccines. Changes in epitopes recognised by T cells, including those where reduced T cell binding has been demonstrated, are reported. Mutations that have been shown to confer SARS-CoV-2 resistance to antiviral drugs are also included. Using visualisation tools, COG-UK-ME also allows users to identify the emergence of variants carrying mutations that could decrease the neutralising activity of both mAbs present in therapeutic cocktails, e.g. Ronapreve. COG-UK-ME tracks changes in the frequency of combinations of mutations and brings together the curated literature on the impact of those mutations on various functional aspects of the virus and therapeutics. Given the unpredictable nature of SARS-CoV-2 as exemplified by yet another variant of concern, Omicron, continued surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 remains imperative to monitor virus evolution linked to the efficacy of therapeutics.

13.
J Gen Virol ; 103(4)2022 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1774462

ABSTRACT

Following the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in PR China in late 2019 a number of variants have emerged, with two of these - alpha and delta - subsequently growing to global prevalence. One characteristic of these variants are changes within the spike protein, in particular the receptor-binding domain (RBD). From a public health perspective, these changes have important implications for increased transmissibility and immune escape; however, their presence could also modify the intrinsic host range of the virus. Using viral pseudotyping, we examined whether the variants of concern (VOCs) alpha, beta, gamma and delta have differing host angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor usage patterns, focusing on a range of relevant mammalian ACE2 proteins. All four VOCs were able to overcome a previous restriction for mouse ACE2, with demonstrable differences also seen for individual VOCs with rat, ferret or civet ACE2 receptors, changes that we subsequently attributed to N501Y and E484K substitutions within the spike RBD.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/genetics , Animals , Ferrets , Host Specificity , Humans , Mice , Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A/chemistry , Rats , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
14.
Vaccine ; 40(20): 2848-2855, 2022 05 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1768584

ABSTRACT

Vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 have been hugely successful in alleviating hospitalization and deaths caused by the newly emerged coronavirus that is the cause of COVID. However, although the parentally administered vaccines are very effective at reducing severe disease, they do not induce sterilizing immunity. As the virus continues to circulate around the globe, it is still not clear how long protection will last, nor whether variants will emerge that escape vaccine immunity. Animal models can be useful to complement studies of antigenicity of novel variants and inform decision making about the need for vaccine updates. The Syrian golden hamster is the preferred small animal model for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Since virus is efficiently transmitted between hamsters, we developed a transmission challenge model that presents a more natural dose and route of infection than the intranasal challenge usually employed. Our studies demonstrate that an saRNA vaccine based on the earliest Wuhan-like virus spike sequence induced neutralizing antibodies in sera of immunized hamsters at similar titres to those in human convalescent sera or vaccine recipients. The saRNA vaccine was equally effective at abrogating clinical signs in animals who acquired through exposure to cagemates infected either with a virus isolated in summer 2020 or with a representative Alpha (B.1.1.7) variant isolated in December 2020. The vaccine also reduced shedding of infectious virus from the nose, further reinforcing its likely effectiveness at reducing onwards transmission. This model can be extended to test the effectiveness of vaccination in blocking infections with and transmission of novel variants as they emerge.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Viral Vaccines , Animals , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/therapy , COVID-19 Vaccines , Cricetinae , Humans , Immunization, Passive , SARS-CoV-2 , Vaccines, Synthetic , mRNA Vaccines
15.
EuropePMC; 2022.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-330917

ABSTRACT

Recombination between SARS-CoV-2 virus variants can result in different viral properties (e.g., infectiousness or pathogenicity). In this report, we describe viruses with recombinant genomes containing signature mutations from Delta and Omicron variants. These genomes are the first evidence for a Delta-Omicron hybrid Spike protein in the United States.

16.
EuropePMC; 2022.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-329658

ABSTRACT

The first SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern (VOC) to be designated was lineage B.1.1.7, later labelled by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as Alpha. Originating in early Autumn but discovered in December 2020, it spread rapidly and caused large waves of infections worldwide. The Alpha variant is notable for being defined by a long ancestral phylogenetic branch with an increased evolutionary rate, along which only two sequences have been sampled. Alpha genomes comprise a well-supported monophyletic clade within which the evolutionary rate is more typical of SARS-CoV-2. The Alpha epidemic continued to grow despite the continued restrictions on social mixing across the UK, and the imposition of new restrictions, in particular the English national lockdown in November 2020. While these interventions succeeded in reducing the absolute number of cases, the impact of these non-pharmaceutical interventions was predominantly to drive the decline of the SARS-CoV-2 lineages which preceded Alpha. We investigate the only two sampled sequences that fall on the branch ancestral to Alpha. We find that one is likely to be a true intermediate sequence, providing information about the order of mutational events that led to Alpha. We explore alternate hypotheses that can explain how Alpha acquired a large number of mutations yet remained largely unobserved in a region of high genomic surveillance: an under-sampled geographical location, a non-human animal population, or a chronically-infected individual. We conclude that the last hypothesis provides the best explanation of the observed behaviour and dynamics of the variant, although we find that the individual need not be immunocompromised, as persistently-infected immunocompetent hosts also display a higher within-host rate of evolution. Finally, we compare the ancestral branches and mutation profiles of other VOCs to each other, and identify that Delta appears to be an outlier both in terms of the genomic locations of its defining mutations, and its lack of rapid evolutionary rate on the ancestral branch. As new variants, such as Omicron, continue to evolve (potentially through similar mechanisms) it remains important to investigate the origins of other variants to identify ways to potentially disrupt their evolution and emergence.

17.
EuropePMC; 2022.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-329500

ABSTRACT

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.

18.
EBioMedicine ; 77: 103902, 2022 Mar.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1700817

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: There is an ongoing global effort to design, manufacture, and clinically assess vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. Over the course of the ongoing pandemic a number of new SARS-CoV-2 virus isolates or variants of concern (VoC) have been identified containing mutations in key proteins. METHODS: In this study we describe the generation and preclinical assessment of a ChAdOx1-vectored vaccine (AZD2816) which expresses the spike protein of the Beta VoC (B.1.351). FINDINGS: We demonstrate that AZD2816 is immunogenic after a single dose. When AZD2816 is used as a booster dose in animals primed with a vaccine encoding the original spike protein (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19/ [AZD1222]), an increase in binding and neutralising antibodies against Beta (B.1.351), Gamma (P.1) and Delta (B.1.617.2) is observed following each additional dose. In addition, a strong and polyfunctional T cell response was measured all booster regimens. INTERPRETATION: Real world data is demonstrating that one or more doses of licensed SARS-CoV-2 vaccines confer reduced protection against hospitalisation and deaths caused by divergent VoC, including Omicron. Our data support the ongoing clinical development and testing of booster vaccines to increase immunity against highly mutated VoC. FUNDING: This research was funded by AstraZeneca with supporting funds from MRC and BBSRC.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19 Vaccines , ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 , Humans , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
19.
SSRN;
Preprint in English | SSRN | ID: ppcovidwho-325961

ABSTRACT

Vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 have been hugely successful in alleviating hospitalization and deaths caused by the newly emerged coronavirus that is the cause of COVID. However, although the parentally administered vaccines are very effective at reducing severe disease, they do not induce sterilizing immunity. As the virus continues to circulate around the globe, it is still not clear how long protection will last, nor whether variants will emerge that escape vaccine immunity. Animal models can be useful to complement studies of antigenicity of novel variants and inform decision making about the need for vaccine updates. The Syrian golden hamster is the preferred small animal model for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Since virus is efficiently transmitted between hamsters, we developed a transmission challenge model that presents a more natural dose and route of infection than the intranasal challenge usually employed. Our studies demonstrate that an saRNA vaccine based on the earliest Wuhan-like virus spike sequence induced neutralizing antibodies in sera of immunized hamsters at similar titres to those in human convalescent sera or vaccine recipients. The saRNA vaccine was equally effective at abrogating clinical signs in animals who acquired through exposure to cagemates infected either with a virus isolated in summer 2020 or with a representative Alpha (B.1.1.7) variant isolated in December 2020. The vaccine also reduced shedding of infectious virus from the nose, further reinforcing its likely effectiveness at reducing onwards transmission. This model can be extended to test the effectiveness of vaccination in blocking infections with and transmission of novel variants as they emerge. Note: Funding Information: This study was supported by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [INV-016635]. We acknowledge the G2P-UK National Virology consortium funded by MRC/UKRI (grant ref: MR/W005611/1) for contributing funding for this work. RK was supported by Wellcome fellowship no. 216353/Z/19/Z. Declaration of Interests: Robin Shattock and Paul McKay RJS and PFM are co-inventors on a patent application covering this SARS-CoV-2 saRNA vaccine. All other authors have nothing to declare. Ethics Approval Statement: All work performed was approved by the local genetic manipulation (GM) safety committee of 217 Imperial College London, St. Mary’s Campus (centre number GM77), and the Health and Safety 218 Executive of the United Kingdom, under reference CBA1.77.20.1. Animal research was carried out 219 under a United Kingdom Home Office License, P48DAD9B4. Keywords: SARS-CoV-2, variant, saRNA, hamster, Transmission

20.
Curr Res Transl Med ; 70(2): 103333, 2022 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1683570

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The human protein transmembrane protease serine type 2 (TMPRSS2) plays a key role in SARS-CoV-2 infection, as it is required to activate the virus' spike protein, facilitating entry into target cells. We hypothesized that naturally-occurring TMPRSS2 human genetic variants affecting the structure and function of the TMPRSS2 protein may modulate the severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection. METHODS: We focused on the only common TMPRSS2 non-synonymous variant predicted to be damaging (rs12329760 C>T, p.V160M), which has a minor allele frequency ranging from 0.14 in Ashkenazi Jewish to 0.38 in East Asians. We analysed the association between the rs12329760 and COVID-19 severity in 2,244 critically ill patients with COVID-19 from 208 UK intensive care units recruited as part of the GenOMICC (Genetics Of Mortality In Critical Care) study. Logistic regression analyses were adjusted for sex, age and deprivation index. For in vitro studies, HEK293 cells were co-transfected with ACE2 and either TMPRSS2 wild type or mutant (TMPRSS2V160M). A SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus entry assay was used to investigate the ability of TMPRSS2V160M to promote viral entry. RESULTS: We show that the T allele of rs12329760 is associated with a reduced likelihood of developing severe COVID-19 (OR 0.87, 95%CI:0.79-0.97, p = 0.01). This association was stronger in homozygous individuals when compared to the general population (OR 0.65, 95%CI:0.50-0.84, p = 1.3 × 10-3). We demonstrate in vitro that this variant, which causes the amino acid substitution valine to methionine, affects the catalytic activity of TMPRSS2 and is less able to support SARS-CoV-2 spike-mediated entry into cells. CONCLUSION: TMPRSS2 rs12329760 is a common variant associated with a significantly decreased risk of severe COVID-19. Further studies are needed to assess the expression of TMPRSS2 across different age groups. Moreover, our results identify TMPRSS2 as a promising drug target, with a potential role for camostat mesilate, a drug approved for the treatment of chronic pancreatitis and postoperative reflux esophagitis, in the treatment of COVID-19. Clinical trials are needed to confirm this.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , COVID-19/genetics , Gene Frequency , HEK293 Cells , Humans , SARS-CoV-2 , Serine Endopeptidases/genetics , Virus Internalization
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