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Viruses ; 14(4)2022 04 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1776364


SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19, emerged in late 2019. The highly contagious B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant of concern (VOC) was first identified in October 2020 in India and subsequently disseminated worldwide, later becoming the dominant lineage in the US. Understanding the local transmission dynamics of early SARS-CoV-2 introductions may inform actionable mitigation efforts during subsequent pandemic waves. Yet, despite considerable genomic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 in the US, several gaps remain. Here, we explore the early emergence of the Delta variant in Florida, US using phylogenetic analysis of representative Florida and globally sampled genomes. We find multiple independent introductions into Florida primarily from North America and Europe, with a minority originating from Asia. These introductions led to three distinct clades that demonstrated varying relative rates of transmission and possessed five distinct substitutions that were 3-21 times more prevalent in the Florida sample as compared to the global sample. Our results underscore the benefits of routine viral genomic surveillance to monitor epidemic spread and support the need for more comprehensive genomic epidemiology studies of emerging variants. In addition, we provide a model of epidemic spread of newly emerging VOCs that can inform future public health responses.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , COVID-19/epidemiology , Florida/epidemiology , Humans , Mutation , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
Mol Biol Evol ; 38(6): 2547-2565, 2021 05 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1238217


Effective systems for the analysis of molecular data are fundamental for monitoring the spread of infectious diseases and studying pathogen evolution. The rapid identification of emerging viral strains, and/or genetic variants potentially associated with novel phenotypic features is one of the most important objectives of genomic surveillance of human pathogens and represents one of the first lines of defense for the control of their spread. During the COVID 19 pandemic, several taxonomic frameworks have been proposed for the classification of SARS-Cov-2 isolates. These systems, which are typically based on phylogenetic approaches, represent essential tools for epidemiological studies as well as contributing to the study of the origin of the outbreak. Here, we propose an alternative, reproducible, and transparent phenetic method to study changes in SARS-CoV-2 genomic diversity over time. We suggest that our approach can complement other systems and facilitate the identification of biologically relevant variants in the viral genome. To demonstrate the validity of our approach, we present comparative genomic analyses of more than 175,000 genomes. Our method delineates 22 distinct SARS-CoV-2 haplogroups, which, based on the distribution of high-frequency genetic variants, fall into four major macrohaplogroups. We highlight biased spatiotemporal distributions of SARS-CoV-2 genetic profiles and show that seven of the 22 haplogroups (and of all of the four haplogroup clusters) showed a broad geographic distribution within China by the time the outbreak was widely recognized-suggesting early emergence and widespread cryptic circulation of the virus well before its isolation in January 2020. General patterns of genomic variability are remarkably similar within all major SARS-CoV-2 haplogroups, with UTRs consistently exhibiting the greatest variability, with s2m, a conserved secondary structure element of unknown function in the 3'-UTR of the viral genome showing evidence of a functional shift. Although several polymorphic sites that are specific to one or more haplogroups were predicted to be under positive or negative selection, overall our analyses suggest that the emergence of novel types is unlikely to be driven by convergent evolution and independent fixation of advantageous substitutions, or by selection of recombined strains. In the absence of extensive clinical metadata for most available genome sequences, and in the context of extensive geographic and temporal biases in the sampling, many questions regarding the evolution and clinical characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 isolates remain open. However, our data indicate that the approach outlined here can be usefully employed in the identification of candidate SARS-CoV-2 genetic variants of clinical and epidemiological importance.

COVID-19/genetics , Evolution, Molecular , Genome, Viral , Genomics , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Humans