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Front Microbiol ; 12: 653399, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1389208


Co-infection with ancillary pathogens is a significant modulator of morbidity and mortality in infectious diseases. There have been limited reports of co-infections accompanying SARS-CoV-2 infections, albeit lacking India specific study. The present study has made an effort toward elucidating the prevalence, diversity and characterization of co-infecting respiratory pathogens in the nasopharyngeal tract of SARS-CoV-2 positive patients. Two complementary metagenomics based sequencing approaches, Respiratory Virus Oligo Panel (RVOP) and Holo-seq, were utilized for unbiased detection of co-infecting viruses and bacteria. The limited SARS-CoV-2 clade diversity along with differential clinical phenotype seems to be partially explained by the observed spectrum of co-infections. We found a total of 43 bacteria and 29 viruses amongst the patients, with 18 viruses commonly captured by both the approaches. In addition to SARS-CoV-2, Human Mastadenovirus, known to cause respiratory distress, was present in a majority of the samples. We also found significant differences of bacterial reads based on clinical phenotype. Of all the bacterial species identified, ∼60% have been known to be involved in respiratory distress. Among the co-pathogens present in our sample cohort, anaerobic bacteria accounted for a preponderance of bacterial diversity with possible role in respiratory distress. Clostridium botulinum, Bacillus cereus and Halomonas sp. are anaerobes found abundantly across the samples. Our findings highlight the significance of metagenomics based diagnosis and detection of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory co-infections in the current pandemic to enable efficient treatment administration and better clinical management. To our knowledge this is the first study from India with a focus on the role of co-infections in SARS-CoV-2 clinical sub-phenotype.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21258076


Delhi, the national capital of India, has experienced multiple SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks in 2020 and reached a population seropositivity of over 50% by 2021. During April 2021, the city became overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases and fatalities, as a new variant B.1.617.2 (Delta) replaced B.1.1.7 (Alpha). A Bayesian model explains the growth advantage of Delta through a combination of increased transmissibility and partial reduction of immunity elicited by prior infection (median estimates; x1.5-fold, 20% reduction). Seropositivity of an employee and family cohort increased from 42% to 86% between March and July 2021, with 27% reinfections, as judged by increased antibody concentration after previous decline. The likely high transmissibility and partial evasion of immunity by the Delta variant contributed to an overwhelming surge in Delhi. One-Sentence SummaryDelhi experienced an overwhelming surge of COVID-19 cases and fatalities peaking in May 2021 as the highly transmissible and immune evasive Delta variant replaced the Alpha variant.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20226621


Over 95% of the COVID-19 cases are mild-to-asymptomatic who contribute to disease transmission whereas most of the severe manifestations of the disease are observed in elderly and in patients with comorbidities and dysregulation of immune response has been implicated in severe clinical outcomes. However, it is unclear whether asymptomatic or mild infections are due to low viral load or lack of inflammation. We have measured the kinetics of SARS-CoV-2 viral load in the respiratory samples and serum markers of inflammation in hospitalized COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms. We observed a bi-phasic pattern of virus load which was eventually cleared in most patients at the time of discharge. Viral load in saliva samples from a subset of patients showed good correlation with nasopharyngeal samples. Serum interferon levels were downregulated during early stages of infection but peaked at later stages correlating with elevated levels of T-cell cytokines and other inflammatory mediators such as IL-6 and TNF- which showed a bi-phasic pattern. The clinical recovery of patients correlated with decrease in viral load and increase in interferons and other cytokines which indicates an effective innate and adaptive immune function in mild infections. We further characterized one of the SARS-CoV-2 isolate by plaque purification and show that infection of lung epithelial cells (Calu-3) with this isolate led to cytopathic effect disrupting epithelial barrier function and tight junctions. Finally we showed that zinc was capable of inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 infection in this model suggesting a beneficial effect of zinc supplementation in COVID-19 infection. IMPORTANCEA majority of COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic or exhibit mild symptoms despite high viral loads suggesting a key role for the acute phase innate immune response in limiting the damage and clearing the virus. Therefore, it is important to understand the early phase response to SARS-CoV-2 infection in such patients to devise strategies for clinical management of the disease. Our study shows the kinetics of immune mediators in the serum samples collected from hospitalized COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms. We further characterize a virus isolate from one of these patients and demonstrate its effect on epithelial barrier functions and show that zinc was capable of inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 infection under these conditions. Our results suggest a key role for the innate immune responses in the early phase of infection in mitigating clinical symptoms, clearing the virus and recovery from illness and suggest an antiviral role for zinc in COVID-19 infection.