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Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21253590


BackgroundMitigation of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from international travel is a priority. Travellers from countries with travel restrictions (closed travel-corridors) were required to quarantine for 14 days over Summer 2020 in England. We describe the genomic epidemiology of travel-related cases in England and evaluate the effectiveness of this travel policy. MethodsBetween 27/05/2020 and 13/09/2020, probable travel-related SARS-CoV-2 cases and their contacts were identified and combined with UK SARS-CoV-2 sequencing data. The epidemiology and demographics of cases was identified, and the number of contacts per case modelled using negative binomial regression to estimate the effect of travel restriction, and any variation by age, sex and calendar date. Unique travel-related SARS-CoV-2 genomes in the COG-UK dataset were identified to estimate the effect travel restrictions on cluster size generated from these. The Polecat Clustering Tool was used to identify a travel-related SARS-CoV-2 cluster of infection. Findings4,207 travel-related SARS-CoV-2 cases are identified. 51.2% (2155/4207) of cases reported travel to one of three countries; 21.0% (882) Greece, 16.3% (685) Croatia and 14.0% (589) Spain. Median number of contacts per case was 3 (IQR 1-5), and greatest for the 16-20 age-group (9.0, 95% C.I.=5.6-14.5), which saw the largest attenuation by travel restriction. Travel restriction was associated with a 40% (rate ratio=0.60, 95% C.I.=0.37-0.95) lower rate of contacts. 827/4207 (19.7%) of cases had high-quality SARS-CoV-2 genomes available. Fewer genomically-linked cases were observed for index cases related to countries with travel restrictions compared to cases from non-travel restriction countries (rate ratio=0.17, 95% C.I.=0.05-0.52). A large travel-related cluster dispersed across England is identified through genomics, confirmed with contact-tracing data. InterpretationThis study demonstrates the efficacy of travel restriction policy in reducing the onward transmission of imported cases. FundingWellcome Trust, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK Research & Innovation, National Institute of Health Research, Wellcome Sanger Institute. RESEARCH IN CONTEXTO_ST_ABSEvidence before this studyC_ST_ABSWe searched PubMed, medRxiv, bioRxiv, Web of Science and Scopus for the terms (COVID-19 OR SARS-COV-2) AND (imported or importation) AND (sequenc* OR genom* or WGS). We filtered the 55 articles identified through this search and rejected any that did not undertake SARS-CoV-2 sequencing as part of an epidemiological investigation for importation into a different country. The remaining 20 papers were reviewed in greater detail to understand the patterns of importation and the methods used in each case. Added value of this studyThis is the first published study on importations of SARS-CoV-2 into England using genomics. Plessis et al., (2021) used a predictive model to infer the number of importations in to the UK from all SARS-CoV-2 genomes generated before 26th June 2020. The current study assesses the period 27/05/2020 to 13/09/2020 and presents findings of case-reported travel linked to genomic data. Two unpublished reports exist for Wales and Scotland, although only examine a comparatively small number of importations. Implications of all the available evidenceThis large-scale study has a number of findings that are pertinent to public health and of global significance, not available from prior evidence to our knowledge. The study demonstrates travel restrictions, through the implementation of travel-corridors, are effective in reducing the number of contacts per case based on observational data. Age has a significant effect on the number of contacts and this can be mitigated with travel restrictions. Analysis of divergent clusters indicates travel restrictions can reduce the number of onwards cases following a travel-associated case. Analysis of divergent clusters can allow for importations to be identified from genomics, as subsequently evidenced by cluster characteristics derived from contact tracing. The majority of importations of SARS-CoV-2 in England over Summer 2020 were from coastal European countries. The highest number of cases and onward contacts were from Greece, which was largely exempt from self-isolation requirements (bar some islands in September at the end of the study period). Systematic monitoring of imported SARS-CoV-2 cases would help refine implementation of travel restrictions. Finally, along with multiple studies, this study highlights the use of genomics to monitor and track importations of SARS-CoV-2 mutations of interest; this will be of particular use as the repertoire of clinically relevant SARS-CoV-2 variants expand over time and globally.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20219642


Identifying linked cases of infection is a key part of the public health response to viral infectious disease. Viral genome sequence data is of great value in this task, but requires careful analysis, and may need to be complemented by additional types of data. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for analytical methods which bring together sources of data to inform epidemiological investigations. We here describe A2B-COVID, an approach for the rapid identification of linked cases of coronavirus infection. Our method combines knowledge about infection dynamics, data describing the movements of individuals, and novel approaches to genome sequence data to assess whether or not cases of infection are consistent or inconsistent with linkage via transmission. We apply our method to analyse and compare data collected from two wards at Cambridge University Hospitals, showing qualitatively different patterns of linkage between cases on designated Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 wards. Our method is suitable for the rapid analysis of data from clinical or other potential outbreak settings.

Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-328328


Genomic epidemiology has become an increasingly common tool for epidemic response. Recent technological advances have made it possible to sequence genomes rapidly enough to inform outbreak response, and cheaply enough to justify dense sampling of even large epidemics. With increased availability of sequencing it is possible for agile networks of sequencing facilities to collaborate on the sequencing and analysis of epidemic genomic data. In response to the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in the United Kingdom, the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium was formed with the aim of rapidly sequencing SARS-CoV-2 genomes as part of a national-scale genomic surveillance strategy. The network consists of universities, academic institutes, regional sequencing centres and the four UK Public Health Agencies. We describe the development and deployment of Majora, an encompassing digital infrastructure to address the challenge of collecting and integrating both genomic sequencing data and sample-associated metadata produced across the COG-UK network. The system was designed and implemented pragmatically to stand up capacity rapidly in a pandemic caused by a novel virus. This approach has underpinned the success of COG-UK, which has rapidly become the leading contributor of SARS-CoV-2 genomes to international databases and has generated over 60,000 sequences to date.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20178806


IntroductionProgress in characterising the humoral immune response to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been rapid but areas of uncertainty persist. This review comprehensively evaluated evidence describing the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 published from 01/01/2020-26/06/2020. MethodsSystematic review. Keyword-structured searches were carried out in MEDLINE, Embase and COVID-19 Primer. Articles were independently screened on title, abstract and full text by two researchers, with arbitration of disagreements. Data were double-extracted into a pre-designed template, and studies critically appraised using a modified version of the MetaQAT tool, with resolution of disagreements by consensus. Findings were narratively synthesised. Results150 papers were included. Most studies (75%) were observational in design, and included papers were generally of moderate quality based on hospitalised patients. Few considered mild or asymptomatic infection. Antibody dynamics were well described in the acute phase, and up to around 3 months from disease onset, although inconsistencies remain concerning clinical correlates. Development of neutralising antibodies following SARS-CoV-2 infection is typical, although titres may be low. Specific and potent neutralising antibodies have been isolated from convalescent plasma. Cross reactivity but limited cross neutralisation occurs with other HCoVs. Evidence for protective immunity in vivo is limited to small, short-term animal studies, which show promising initial results in the immediate recovery phase. InterpretationPublished literature on immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 is of variable quality with considerable heterogeneity with regard to methods, study participants, outcomes measured and assays used. Antibody dynamics have been evaluated thoroughly in the acute phase but longer follow up and a comprehensive assessment of the role of demographic characteristics and disease severity is needed. The role of protective neutralising antibodies is emerging, with implications for therapeutics and vaccines. Large, cross-national cohort studies using appropriate statistical analysis and standardised serological assays and clinical classifications should be prioritised.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20180679


IntroductionUnderstanding the cellular immune response to SARS-CoV-2 is critical to vaccine development, epidemiological surveillance and control strategies. This systematic review critically evaluates and synthesises the relevant peer-reviewed and pre-print literature published in recent months. MethodsFor this systematic review, independent keyword-structured literature searches were carried out in MEDLINE, Embase and COVID-19 Primer for studies published from 01/01/2020-26/06/2020. Papers were independently screened by two researchers, with arbitration of disagreements by a third researcher. Data were independently extracted into a pre-designed Excel template and studies critically appraised using a modified version of the MetaQAT tool, with resolution of disagreements by consensus. Findings were narratively synthesised. Results61 articles were included. Almost all studies used observational designs, were hospital-based, and the majority had important limitations. Symptomatic adult COVID-19 cases consistently show peripheral T cell lymphopenia, which positively correlates with increased disease severity, duration of RNA positivity, and non-survival; while asymptomatic and paediatric cases display preserved counts. People with severe or critical disease generally develop more robust, virus-specific T cell responses. T cell memory and effector function has been demonstrated against multiple viral epitopes, and, cross-reactive T cell responses have been demonstrated in unexposed and uninfected adults, but the significance for protection and susceptibility, respectively, remains unclear. InterpretationA complex pattern of T cell response to SARS-CoV-2 infection has been demonstrated, but inferences regarding population level immunity are hampered by significant methodological limitations and heterogeneity between studies. In contrast to antibody responses, population-level surveillance of the cellular response is unlikely to be feasible in the near term. Focused evaluation in specific sub-groups, including vaccine recipients, should be prioritised.