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1.
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.

2.
Microb Genom ; 8(3)2022 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1746154

ABSTRACT

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is adaptively evolving to ensure its persistence within human hosts. It is therefore necessary to continuously monitor the emergence and prevalence of novel variants that arise. Importantly, some mutations have been associated with both molecular diagnostic failures and reduced or abrogated next-generation sequencing (NGS) read coverage in some genomic regions. Such impacts are particularly problematic when they occur in genomic regions such as those that encode the spike (S) protein, which are crucial for identifying and tracking the prevalence and dissemination dynamics of concerning viral variants. Targeted Sanger sequencing presents a fast and cost-effective means to accurately extend the coverage of whole-genome sequences. We designed a custom set of primers to amplify a 401 bp segment of the receptor-binding domain (RBD) (between positions 22698 and 23098 relative to the Wuhan-Hu-1 reference). We then designed a Sanger sequencing wet-laboratory protocol. We applied the primer set and wet-laboratory protocol to sequence 222 samples that were missing positions with key mutations K417N, E484K, and N501Y due to poor coverage after NGS sequencing. Finally, we developed SeqPatcher, a Python-based computational tool to analyse the trace files yielded by Sanger sequencing to generate consensus sequences, or take preanalysed consensus sequences in fasta format, and merge them with their corresponding whole-genome assemblies. We successfully sequenced 153 samples of 222 (69 %) using Sanger sequencing and confirmed the occurrence of key beta variant mutations (K417N, E484K, N501Y) in the S genes of 142 of 153 (93 %) samples. Additionally, one sample had the Y508F mutation and four samples the S477N. Samples with RT-PCR C t scores ranging from 13.85 to 37.47 (mean=25.70) could be Sanger sequenced efficiently. These results show that our method and pipeline can be used to improve the quality of whole-genome assemblies produced using NGS and can be used with any pairs of the most used NGS and Sanger sequencing platforms.


Subject(s)
Genome, Viral , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Sequence Analysis, DNA/methods , High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing , Mutation
3.
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
4.
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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