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1.
Clin Infect Dis ; 75(Supplement_1): S110-S120, 2022 Aug 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1908772

ABSTRACT

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 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (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 3623 SARS-CoV-2 genomes collected between December 2020 and December 2021, of which 3282 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 modeled 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 coronavirus disease 2019 spread as the virus evolves.

2.
EuropePMC; 2020.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-312777

ABSTRACT

SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is a novel virus of the family Coronaviridae. The virus causes the infectious disease COVID-19. The biology of coronaviruses has been studied for many years. However, bioinformatics tools designed explicitly for SARS-CoV-2 have only recently been developed as a rapid reaction to the need for fast detection, understanding, and treatment of COVID-19. To control the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is of utmost importance to get insight into the evolution and pathogenesis of the virus. In this review, we cover bioinformatics workflows and tools for the routine detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the reliable analysis of sequencing data, the tracking of the COVID-19 pandemic and evaluation of containment measures, the study of coronavirus evolution, the discovery of potential drug targets and development of therapeutic strategies. For each tool, we briefly describe its use case and how it advances research specifically for SARS-CoV-2. All tools are freely available online, either through web applications or public code repositories.

3.
Viruses ; 14(1)2022 01 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1614004

ABSTRACT

The role of schools as a source of infection and driver in the coronavirus-pandemic has been controversial and is still not completely clarified. To prevent harm and disadvantages for children and adolescents, but also adults, detailed data on school outbreaks is needed, especially when talking about open schools employing evidence-based safety concepts. Here, we investigated the first significant COVID-19 school outbreak in Hamburg, Germany, after the re-opening of schools in 2020. Using clinical, laboratory, and contact data and spatial measures for epidemiological and environmental studies combined with whole-genome sequencing (WGS) analysis, we examined the causes and the course of the secondary school outbreak. The potential index case was identified by epidemiological tracking and the lessons in classrooms with presumably high virus spreading rates and further infection chains in the setting. Sequence analysis of samples detected one sample of a different virus lineage and 25 virus genomes with almost identical sequences, of which 21 showed 100% similarity. Most infections occurred in connection with two lesson units of the primary case. Likely, 31 students (12-14 years old), two staff members, and three family members were infected in the school or the typical household. Sequence analysis revealed an outbreak cluster with a single source that was epidemiologically identified as a member of the educational staff. In lesson units, two superspreading events of varying degrees with airborne transmission took place. These were influenced by several parameters including the exposure times, the use of respiratory masks while speaking and spatial or structural conditions at that time.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Disease Outbreaks , Schools , COVID-19/diagnosis , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/transmission , Contact Tracing , Disease Outbreaks/prevention & control , Educational Personnel , Family , Female , Genome, Viral/genetics , Germany/epidemiology , Humans , Male , Phylogeny , Quarantine , Risk Factors , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Students
4.
SSRN; 2021.
Preprint in English | SSRN | ID: ppcovidwho-291895

ABSTRACT

The role of schools as a source of infection and driver in the coronavirus-pandemic has been controversial and is still not completely clarified. To prevent harm and disadvantages for children and adolescents, but also adults, detailed data on school outbreaks is needed, especially when talking about open schools employing evidence-based safety concepts. Here, we investigated the first significant COVID-19 school outbreak in Hamburg, Germany, after the re-opening of schools in 2020. Methods Using clinical, laboratory, and contact data and spatial measures for epidemiological and environmental studies combined with whole-genome sequencing (WGS) analysis, we examined the causes and the course of the secondary school outbreak. Findings The potential index case was identified by epidemiological tracking and the lessons in classrooms with presumably high virus spreading rates and further infection chains in the setting. Sequence analysis of samples detected one sample of a different virus lineage and 25 virus genomes with almost identical sequences, of which 21 showed 100% similarity. Most infections occurred in connection with two lesson units of the primary case. Likely, 31 students (12-14 years old), two staff members, and three family members were infected in the school or the typical household. Interpretations Sequence analysis revealed an outbreak cluster with a single source that was epidemiologically identified as a member of the educational staff. In lesson units, two superspreading events of varying degrees with airborne transmission took place. These were influenced by several parameters including the exposure times, the use of respiratory masks while speaking and spatial or structural conditions at that time.

5.
Nat Commun ; 12(1): 6009, 2021 10 14.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1469968

ABSTRACT

By October 2021, 230 million SARS-CoV-2 diagnoses have been reported. Yet, a considerable proportion of cases remains undetected. Here, we propose GInPipe, a method that rapidly reconstructs SARS-CoV-2 incidence profiles solely from publicly available, time-stamped viral genomes. We validate GInPipe against simulated outbreaks and elaborate phylodynamic analyses. Using available sequence data, we reconstruct incidence histories for Denmark, Scotland, Switzerland, and Victoria (Australia) and demonstrate, how to use the method to investigate the effects of changing testing policies on case ascertainment. Specifically, we find that under-reporting was highest during summer 2020 in Europe, coinciding with more liberal testing policies at times of low testing capacities. Due to the increased use of real-time sequencing, it is envisaged that GInPipe can complement established surveillance tools to monitor the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. In post-pandemic times, when diagnostic efforts are decreasing, GInPipe may facilitate the detection of hidden infection dynamics.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/diagnosis , COVID-19/epidemiology , Genome, Viral , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , COVID-19/history , Europe/epidemiology , History, 21st Century , Humans , Incidence , Pandemics , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Scotland , Switzerland , Victoria
6.
Patterns (N Y) ; 2(6): 100264, 2021 Jun 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1386425

ABSTRACT

While large-scale vaccination campaigns against SARS-CoV-2 are rolled out at the time of writing, non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), including the isolation of infected individuals and quarantine of exposed individuals, remain central measures to contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Strategies that combine NPIs with innovative SARS-CoV-2 testing strategies may increase containment efficacy and help to shorten quarantine durations. We developed a user-friendly software tool that implements a recently published stochastic within-host viral dynamics model that captures temporal attributes of the viral infection, such as test sensitivity, infectiousness, and the occurrence of symptoms. Based on this model, the software allows to evaluate the efficacy of user-defined, arbitrary NPI and testing strategies in reducing the transmission potential in different contexts. The software thus enables decision makers to explore NPI strategies and perform hypothesis testing, e.g., with regard to the utilization of novel diagnostics or with regard to containing novel virus variants.

7.
Brief Bioinform ; 22(2): 642-663, 2021 03 22.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1343629

ABSTRACT

SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is a novel virus of the family Coronaviridae. The virus causes the infectious disease COVID-19. The biology of coronaviruses has been studied for many years. However, bioinformatics tools designed explicitly for SARS-CoV-2 have only recently been developed as a rapid reaction to the need for fast detection, understanding and treatment of COVID-19. To control the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is of utmost importance to get insight into the evolution and pathogenesis of the virus. In this review, we cover bioinformatics workflows and tools for the routine detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the reliable analysis of sequencing data, the tracking of the COVID-19 pandemic and evaluation of containment measures, the study of coronavirus evolution, the discovery of potential drug targets and development of therapeutic strategies. For each tool, we briefly describe its use case and how it advances research specifically for SARS-CoV-2. All tools are free to use and available online, either through web applications or public code repositories. Contact:evbc@unj-jena.de.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/prevention & control , Computational Biology , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Biomedical Research , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/virology , Genome, Viral , Humans , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
8.
Viruses ; 13(8)2021 07 29.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1335229

ABSTRACT

Here, we report on the increasing frequency of the SARS-CoV-2 lineage A.27 in Germany during the first months of 2021. Genomic surveillance identified 710 A.27 genomes in Germany as of 2 May 2021, with a vast majority identified in laboratories from a single German state (Baden-Wuerttemberg, n = 572; 80.5%). Baden-Wuerttemberg is located near the border with France, from where most A.27 sequences were entered into public databases until May 2021. The first appearance of this lineage based on sequencing in a laboratory in Baden-Wuerttemberg can be dated to early January '21. From then on, the relative abundance of A.27 increased until the end of February but has since declined-meanwhile, the abundance of B.1.1.7 increased in the region. The A.27 lineage shows a mutational pattern typical of VOIs/VOCs, including an accumulation of amino acid substitutions in the Spike glycoprotein. Among those, L18F, L452R and N501Y are located in the epitope regions of the N-terminal- (NTD) or receptor binding domain (RBD) and have been suggested to result in immune escape and higher transmissibility. In addition, A.27 does not show the D614G mutation typical for all VOIs/VOCs from the B lineage. Overall, A.27 should continue to be monitored nationally and internationally, even though the observed trend in Germany was initially displaced by B.1.1.7 (Alpha), while now B.1.617.2 (Delta) is on the rise.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/virology , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Amino Acid Substitution , COVID-19/epidemiology , France/epidemiology , Genome, Viral , Germany/epidemiology , Humans , Mutation , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism
9.
Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz ; 64(9): 1050-1057, 2021 Sep.
Article in German | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1330362

ABSTRACT

The global spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV­2 has massively impacted health, economic, and social systems. Although effective vaccines are now available, it is likely that this pathogen will become endemic and stay with us for years. In order to most effectively protect others and oneself from SARS-CoV­2 infection, an understanding of how SARS-CoV­2 is transmitted is of utmost importance.In this review paper, we explain transmission routes with an eye towards protecting others and oneself. We also address characteristics of SARS-CoV­2 transmission in the community. This work will help to clarify the following questions based on the available literature: When and for how long is an infected person contagious? How is the virus excreted? How is the virus taken up? How does the virus spread in society?Human-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV­2 is strongly determined by pathogen molecular characteristics as well as the kinetics of replication, shedding, and infection. SARS-CoV­2 is transmitted primarily via human aerosols, which infected persons can excrete even if symptoms of the disease are not (yet) present. Most infected people cause only a few secondary cases, whereas a few cases (so-called super-spreaders) cause a high number of secondary infections - at the population level one speaks of a so-called "overdispersion." These special characteristics of SARS-CoV­2 (asymptomatic aerosol transmission and overdispersion) make the pandemic difficult to control.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/transmission , Communicable Disease Control , Germany , Humans , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2
10.
Lancet Reg Health Eur ; 6: 100112, 2021 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1260816

ABSTRACT

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.

11.
Patterns (N Y) ; 2(6): 100262, 2021 Jun 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1237843

ABSTRACT

Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) remain decisive tools to contain SARS-CoV-2. Strategies that combine NPIs with testing may improve efficacy and shorten quarantine durations. We developed a stochastic within-host model of SARS-CoV-2 that captures temporal changes in test sensitivities, incubation periods, and infectious periods. We used the model to simulate relative transmission risk for (1) isolation of symptomatic individuals, (2) contact person management, and (3) quarantine of incoming travelers. We estimated that testing travelers at entry reduces transmission risks to 21.3% ([20.7, 23.9], by PCR) and 27.9% ([27.1, 31.1], by rapid diagnostic test [RDT]), compared with unrestricted entry. We calculated that 4 (PCR) or 5 (RDT) days of pre-test quarantine are non-inferior to 10 days of quarantine for incoming travelers and that 8 (PCR) or 10 (RDT) days of pre-test quarantine are non-inferior to 14 days of post-exposure quarantine. De-isolation of infected individuals 13 days after symptom onset may reduce the transmission risk to <0.2% (<0.01, 6.0).

12.
Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz ; 64(4): 435-445, 2021 Apr.
Article in German | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1196566

ABSTRACT

When the emerging novel SARS-CoV­2 virus first appeared in December 2019, neither specific therapeutic options nor vaccinations were available. The role of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) became of central importance. At the Robert Koch Institute, a multilayer strategy consisting of population-based and individual preventive measures to control the pandemic was developed, which built upon existing influenza pandemic plans as well as generic plans. This paper explains the recommended NPIs and illustrates the pharmaceutical approaches developed in parallel.Among others, general contact bans, providing material for infection prevention and control, ban of events, closing educational institutions, and restricting travel are counted among population-based measures. Additional individual preventive measures are necessary, e.g., keeping a minimum distance, reducing contacts, and wearing a mouth-nose covering as well as quarantine and isolation. Measures within the health system are based on recommendations of the Commission on Hospital Hygiene and Infection Protection (Kommission für Krankenhaushygiene und Infektionsprävention (KRINKO)) and specified and implemented by professional societies. Since November 2020, an antiviral therapy with remdesivir and treatment with the glucocorticoid dexamethasone have been available as pharmaceutical interventions. Monoclonal antibodies are at this time not approved. Therapeutic anticoagulation is recommended.Recommendations are constantly adapted to the increasing knowledge on the pathogen and its means of transmission. A challenge is to strengthen the trust of the population. Many measures have to be applied on an individual basis in order to work together.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Pharmaceutical Preparations , Germany , Humans , Pandemics/prevention & control , Quarantine , SARS-CoV-2
13.
Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz ; 64(4): 435-445, 2021 Apr.
Article in German | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1159627

ABSTRACT

When the emerging novel SARS-CoV­2 virus first appeared in December 2019, neither specific therapeutic options nor vaccinations were available. The role of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) became of central importance. At the Robert Koch Institute, a multilayer strategy consisting of population-based and individual preventive measures to control the pandemic was developed, which built upon existing influenza pandemic plans as well as generic plans. This paper explains the recommended NPIs and illustrates the pharmaceutical approaches developed in parallel.Among others, general contact bans, providing material for infection prevention and control, ban of events, closing educational institutions, and restricting travel are counted among population-based measures. Additional individual preventive measures are necessary, e.g., keeping a minimum distance, reducing contacts, and wearing a mouth-nose covering as well as quarantine and isolation. Measures within the health system are based on recommendations of the Commission on Hospital Hygiene and Infection Protection (Kommission für Krankenhaushygiene und Infektionsprävention (KRINKO)) and specified and implemented by professional societies. Since November 2020, an antiviral therapy with remdesivir and treatment with the glucocorticoid dexamethasone have been available as pharmaceutical interventions. Monoclonal antibodies are at this time not approved. Therapeutic anticoagulation is recommended.Recommendations are constantly adapted to the increasing knowledge on the pathogen and its means of transmission. A challenge is to strengthen the trust of the population. Many measures have to be applied on an individual basis in order to work together.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Pharmaceutical Preparations , Germany , Humans , Pandemics/prevention & control , Quarantine , SARS-CoV-2
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