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Clin Infect Dis ; 2022 Jun 25.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1908772


BACKGROUND: Comprehensive pathogen genomic surveillance represents a powerful tool to complement and advance precision vaccinology. The emergence of the Alpha variant in December 2020 and the resulting efforts to track the spread of this and other SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern led to an expansion of genomic sequencing activities in Germany. METHODS: At Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German National Institute of Public Health, we established the "Integrated Molecular Surveillance for SARS-CoV-2" (IMS-SC2) network to perform SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance at the national scale, SARS-CoV-2 positive samples from laboratories distributed across Germany regularly undergo whole-genome sequencing at RKI. RESULTS: We report analyses of 3,623 SARS-CoV-2 genomes collected between December 2020 and December 2021, of which 3,282 were randomly sampled. All variants of concern were identified in the sequenced sample set, at ratios equivalent to those in the 100-fold larger German GISAID sequence dataset from the same time period. Phylogenetic analysis confirmed variant assignments. Multiple mutations of concern emerged during the observation period. To model vaccine effectiveness in vitro, we employed authentic-virus neutralization assays, confirming that both the Beta and Zeta variants are capable of immune evasion. The IMS-SC2 sequence dataset facilitated an estimate of the SARS-CoV-2 incidence based on genetic evolution rates. Together with modelled vaccine efficacies, Delta-specific incidence estimation indicated that the German vaccination campaign contributed substantially to a deceleration of the nascent German Delta wave. CONCLUSIONS: SARS-CoV-2 molecular and genomic surveillance may inform public health policies including vaccination strategies and enable a proactive approach to controlling COVID-19 spread as the virus evolves.

Lancet Reg Health Eur ; 6: 100112, 2021 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1260816


BACKGROUND: During the initial COVID-19 response, Germany's Federal Government implemented several nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) that were instrumental in suppressing early exponential spread of SARS-CoV-2. NPI effect on the transmission of other respiratory viruses has not been examined at the national level thus far. METHODS: Upper respiratory tract specimens from 3580 patients with acute respiratory infection (ARI), collected within the nationwide German ARI Sentinel, underwent RT-PCR diagnostics for multiple respiratory viruses. The observation period (weeks 1-38 of 2020) included the time before, during and after a far-reaching contact ban. Detection rates for different viruses were compared to 2017-2019 sentinel data (15350 samples; week 1-38, 11823 samples). FINDINGS: The March 2020 contact ban, which was followed by a mask mandate, was associated with an unprecedented and sustained decline of multiple respiratory viruses. Among these, rhinovirus was the single agent that resurged to levels equalling those of previous years. Rhinovirus rebound was first observed in children, after schools and daycares had reopened. By contrast, other nonenveloped viruses (i.e. gastroenteritis viruses reported at the national level) suppressed after the shutdown did not rebound. INTERPRETATION: Contact restrictions with a subsequent mask mandate in spring may substantially reduce respiratory virus circulation. This reduction appears sustained for most viruses, indicating that the activity of influenza and other respiratory viruses during the subsequent winter season might be low,whereas rhinovirus resurgence, potentially driven by transmission in educational institutions in a setting of waning population immunity, might signal predominance of rhinovirus-related ARIs. FUNDING: Robert Koch-Institute and German Ministry of Health.