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Commun Med (Lond) ; 1: 33, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1860415


Background: It is estimated that up to 80% of infections caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are asymptomatic and asymptomatic patients can still effectively transmit the virus and cause disease. While much of the effort has been placed on decoding single nucleotide variation in SARS-CoV-2 genomes, considerably less is known about their transcript variation and any correlation with clinical severity in human hosts, as defined here by the presence or absence of symptoms. Methods: To assess viral genomic signatures of disease severity, we conducted a systematic characterization of SARS-CoV-2 transcripts and genetic variants in 81 clinical specimens collected from symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals using multi-scale transcriptomic analyses including amplicon-seq, short-read metatranscriptome and long-read Iso-seq. Results: Here we show a highly coordinated and consistent pattern of sgRNA expression from individuals with robust SARS-CoV-2 symptomatic infection and their expression is significantly repressed in the asymptomatic infections. We also observe widespread inter- and intra-patient variants in viral RNAs, known as quasispecies frequently found in many RNA viruses. We identify unique sets of deletions preferentially found primarily in symptomatic individuals, with many likely to confer changes in SARS-CoV-2 virulence and host responses. Moreover, these frequently occurring structural variants in SARS-CoV-2 genomes serve as a mechanism to further induce SARS-CoV-2 proteome complexity. Conclusions: Our results indicate that differential sgRNA expression and structural mutational burden are highly correlated with the clinical severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Longitudinally monitoring sgRNA expression and structural diversity could further guide treatment responses, testing strategies, and vaccine development.

Commun Biol ; 5(1): 439, 2022 05 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1839575


SARS-CoV-2 variants shaped the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the discourse around effective control measures. Evaluating the threat posed by a new variant is essential for adapting response efforts when community transmission is detected. In this study, we compare the dynamics of two variants, Alpha and Iota, by integrating genomic surveillance data to estimate the effective reproduction number (Rt) of the variants. We use Connecticut, United States, in which Alpha and Iota co-circulated in 2021. We find that the Rt of these variants were up to 50% larger than that of other variants. We then use phylogeography to show that while both variants were introduced into Connecticut at comparable frequencies, clades that resulted from introductions of Alpha were larger than those resulting from Iota introductions. By monitoring the dynamics of individual variants throughout our study period, we demonstrate the importance of routine surveillance in the response to COVID-19.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/epidemiology , Genomics , Humans , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , United States/epidemiology
Cell Rep Med ; 3(4): 100583, 2022 04 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1735052


The SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant rose to dominance in mid-2021, likely propelled by an estimated 40%-80% increased transmissibility over Alpha. To investigate if this ostensible difference in transmissibility is uniform across populations, we partner with public health programs from all six states in New England in the United States. We compare logistic growth rates during each variant's respective emergence period, finding that Delta emerged 1.37-2.63 times faster than Alpha (range across states). We compute variant-specific effective reproductive numbers, estimating that Delta is 63%-167% more transmissible than Alpha (range across states). Finally, we estimate that Delta infections generate on average 6.2 (95% CI 3.1-10.9) times more viral RNA copies per milliliter than Alpha infections during their respective emergence. Overall, our evidence suggests that Delta's enhanced transmissibility can be attributed to its innate ability to increase infectiousness, but its epidemiological dynamics may vary depending on underlying population attributes and sequencing data availability.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/epidemiology , Humans , New England/epidemiology , Public Health , SARS-CoV-2/genetics