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Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-495142


Accurate inference of who infected whom in an infectious disease outbreak is critical for the delivery of effective infection prevention and control. The increased resolution of pathogen whole-genome sequencing has significantly improved our ability to infer transmission events. Despite this, transmission inference often remains limited by the lack of genomic variation between the source case and infected contacts. Although within-host genetic diversity is common among a wide variety of pathogens, conventional whole-genome sequencing phylogenetic approaches to reconstruct outbreaks exclusively use consensus sequences, which consider only the most prevalent nucleotide at each position and therefore fail to capture low frequency variation within samples. We hypothesized that including within-sample variation in a phylogenetic model would help to identify who infected whom in instances in which this was previously impossible. Using whole-genome sequences from SARS-CoV-2 multi-institutional outbreaks as an example, we show how within-sample diversity is stable among repeated serial samples from the same host, is transmitted between those cases with known epidemiological links, and how this improves phylogenetic inference and our understanding of who infected whom. Our technique is applicable to other infectious diseases and has immediate clinical utility in infection prevention and control.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-22270799


IntroductionViral sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 has been used for outbreak investigation, but there is limited evidence supporting routine use for infection prevention and control (IPC) within hospital settings. MethodsWe conducted a prospective non-randomised trial of sequencing at 14 acute UK hospital trusts. Sites each had a 4-week baseline data-collection period, followed by intervention periods comprising 8 weeks of rapid (<48h) and 4 weeks of longer-turnaround (5-10 day) sequencing using a sequence reporting tool (SRT). Data were collected on all hospital onset COVID-19 infections (HOCIs; detected [≥]48h from admission). The impact of the sequencing intervention on IPC knowledge and actions, and on incidence of probable/definite hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) was evaluated. ResultsA total of 2170 HOCI cases were recorded from October 2020-April 2021, with sequence reports returned for 650/1320 (49.2%) during intervention phases. We did not detect a statistically significant change in weekly incidence of HAIs in longer-turnaround (IRR 1.60, 95%CI 0.85-3.01; P=0.14) or rapid (0.85, 0.48-1.50; P=0.54) intervention phases compared to baseline phase. However, IPC practice was changed in 7.8% and 7.4% of all HOCI cases in rapid and longer-turnaround phases, respectively, and 17.2% and 11.6% of cases where the report was returned. In a per-protocol sensitivity analysis there was an impact on IPC actions in 20.7% of HOCI cases when the SRT report was returned within 5 days. ConclusionWhile we did not demonstrate a direct impact of sequencing on the incidence of nosocomial transmission, our results suggest that sequencing can inform IPC response to HOCIs, particularly when returned within 5 days.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21259107


BackgroundSevere acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) lineage B.1.1.7 has been associated with an increased rate of transmission and disease severity among subjects testing positive in the community. Its impact on hospitalised patients is less well documented. MethodsWe collected viral sequences and clinical data of patients admitted with SARS-CoV-2 and hospital-onset COVID-19 infections (HOCIs), sampled 16/11/2020 - 10/01/2021, from eight hospitals participating in the COG-UK-HOCI study. Associations between the variant and the outcomes of all-cause mortality and intensive therapy unit (ITU) admission were evaluated using mixed effects Cox models adjusted by age, sex, comorbidities, care home residence, pregnancy and ethnicity. ResultsSequences were obtained from 2341 inpatients (HOCI cases = 786) and analysis of clinical outcomes was carried out in 2147 inpatients with all data available. The hazard ratio (HR) for mortality of B.1.1.7 compared to other lineages was 1.01 (95% CI 0.79-1.28, P=0.94) and for ITU admission was 1.01 (95% CI 0.75-1.37, P=0.96). Analysis of sex-specific effects of B.1.1.7 identified increased risk of mortality (HR 1.30, 95% CI 0.95-1.78) and ITU admission (HR 1.82, 95% CI 1.15-2.90) in females infected with the variant but not males (mortality HR 0.82, 95% CI 0.61-1.10; ITU HR 0.74, 95% CI 0.52-1.04). ConclusionsIn common with smaller studies of patients hospitalised with SARS-CoV-2 we did not find an overall increase in mortality or ITU admission associated with B.1.1.7 compared to other lineages. However, women with B.1.1.7 may be at an increased risk of admission to intensive care and at modestly increased risk of mortality.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20230599


While changes in SARS-CoV-2 viral load over time have been documented, detailed information on the impact of remdesivir and how it might alter intra-host viral evolution is limited. Sequential viral loads and deep sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 recovered from the upper respiratory tract of hospitalised children revealed that remdesivir treatment suppressed viral RNA levels in one patient but not in a second infected with an identical strain. Evidence of drug resistance to explain this difference was not found. Reduced levels of subgenomic (sg) RNA during treatment of the second patient, suggest an additional effect of remdesivir on viral replication that is independent of viral RNA levels. Haplotype reconstruction uncovered persistent SARS-CoV-2 variant genotypes in four patients. We conclude that these are likely to have arisen from within-host evolution, and not co-transmission, although superinfection cannot be excluded in one case. Sample-to-sample heterogeneity in the abundances of variant genotypes is best explained by the presence of discrete viral populations in the lung with incomplete population sampling in diagnostic swabs. Such compartmentalisation is well described in serious lung infections caused by influenza and Mycobacterium tuberculosis and has been associated with poor drug penetration, suboptimal treatment and drug resistance. Our data provide evidence that remdesivir is able to suppress SARS-CoV-2 replication in vivo but that its efficacy may be compromised by factors reducing penetration into the lung. Based on data from influenza and Mycobacterium tuberculosis lung infections we conclude that early use of remdesivir combined with other agents should now be evaluated. Summary SentenceDeep sequencing of longitudinal samples from SARS-CoV-2 infected paediatric patients identifies evidence of remdesivir-associated inhibition of viral replication in vivo and uncovers evidence of within host evolution of distinct viral genotypes.

Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-069039


Genomic surveillance has become a useful tool for better understanding virus pathogenicity, origin and spread. Obtaining accurately assembled, complete viral genomes directly from clinical samples is still a challenging. Here, we describe three protocols using a unique primer set designed to recover long reads of SARS-CoV-2 directly from total RNA extracted from clinical samples. This protocol is useful, accessible and adaptable to laboratories with varying resources and access to distinct sequencing methods: Nanopore, Illumina and/or Sanger.