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Preprint Dans Anglais | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-462406


Bats are natural reservoirs for both Alpha- and Betacoronaviruses and the hypothesized original hosts of five of seven known zoonotic coronaviruses. To date, the vast majority of bat coronavirus research has been concentrated in Asia, though coronaviruses are globally distributed; indeed, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2-related Betacoronaviruses in the subgenus Sarbecovirus have been identified circulating in Rhinolophid bats in both Africa and Europe, despite the relative dearth of surveillance in these regions. As part of a long-term study examining the dynamics of potentially zoonotic viruses in three species of endemic Madagascar fruit bat (Pteropus rufus, Eidolon dupreanum, Rousettus madagascariensis), we carried out metagenomic Next Generation Sequencing (mNGS) on urine, throat, and fecal samples obtained from wild-caught individuals. We report detection of RNA derived from Betacoronavirus subgenus Nobecovirus in fecal samples from all three species and describe full genome sequences of novel Nobecoviruses in P. rufus and R. madagascariensis. Phylogenetic analysis indicates the existence of five distinct Nobecovirus clades, one of which is defined by the highly divergent sequence reported here from P. rufus bats. Madagascar Nobecoviruses derived from P. rufus and R. madagascariensis demonstrate, respectively, Asian and African phylogeographic origins, mirroring those of their fruit bat hosts. Bootscan recombination analysis indicates significant selection has taken place in the spike, nucleocapsid, and NS7 accessory protein regions of the genome for viruses derived from both bat hosts. Madagascar offers a unique phylogeographic nexus of bats and viruses with both Asian and African phylogeographic origins, providing opportunities for unprecedented mixing of viral groups and, potentially, recombination. As fruit bats are handled and consumed widely across Madagascar for subsistence, understanding the landscape of potentially zoonotic coronavirus circulation is essential for mitigation of future zoonotic threats.

Preprint Dans Anglais | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21259473


As the national reference laboratory for febrile illness in Madagascar, we processed samples from the first epidemic wave of COVID-19, between March and September 2020. We fit generalized additive models to cycle threshold (Ct) value data from our RT-qPCR platform, demonstrating a peak in high viral load, low-Ct value infections temporally coincident with peak epidemic growth rates estimated in real time from publicly-reported incidence data and retrospectively from our own laboratory testing data across three administrative regions. We additionally demonstrate a statistically significant effect of duration of time since infection onset on Ct value, suggesting that Ct value can be used as a biomarker of the stage at which an individual is sampled in the course of an infection trajectory. As an extension, the population-level Ct distribution at a given timepoint can be used to estimate population-level epidemiological dynamics. We illustrate this concept by adopting a recently-developed, nested modeling approach, embedding a within-host viral kinetics model within a population-level Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered (SEIR) framework, to mechanistically estimate epidemic growth rates from cross-sectional Ct distributions across three regions in Madagascar. We find that Ct-derived epidemic growth estimates slightly precede those derived from incidence data across the first epidemic wave, suggesting delays in surveillance and case reporting. Our findings indicate that public reporting of Ct values could offer an important resource for epidemiological inference in low surveillance settings, enabling forecasts of impending incidence peaks in regions with limited case reporting.

Preprint Dans Anglais | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21250385


Regular surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals for SARS-CoV-2 has played a vital role in SARS-CoV-2 outbreak prevention on college and university campuses. Here we describe the voluntary saliva testing program instituted at the University of California, Berkeley during an early period of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in 2020. The program was administered as a research study ahead of clinical implementation, enabling us to launch surveillance testing while continuing to optimize the assay. Results of both the testing protocol itself and the study participants experience show how the program succeeded in providing routine, robust testing capable of contributing to outbreak prevention within a campus community and offer strategies for encouraging participation and a sense of civic responsibility.

Preprint Dans Anglais | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20230870


The high proportion of transmission events derived from asymptomatic or presymptomatic infections make SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent in COVID-19, difficult to control through the traditional non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) of symptom-based isolation and contact tracing. As a consequence, many US universities developed asymptomatic surveillance testing labs, to augment NPIs and control outbreaks on campus throughout the 2020-2021 academic year (AY); several of those labs continue to support asymptomatic surveillance efforts on campus in AY2021-2022. At the height of the pandemic, we built a stochastic branching process model of COVID-19 dynamics at UC Berkeley to advise optimal control strategies in a university environment. Our model combines behavioral interventions in the form of group size limits to deter superspreading, symptom-based isolation, and contact tracing, with asymptomatic surveillance testing. We found that behavioral interventions offer a cost-effective means of epidemic control: group size limits of six or fewer greatly reduce superspreading, and rapid isolation of symptomatic infections can halt rising epidemics, depending on the frequency of asymptomatic transmission in the population. Surveillance testing can overcome uncertainty surrounding asymptomatic infections, with the most effective approaches prioritizing frequent testing with rapid turnaround time to isolation over test sensitivity. Importantly, contact tracing amplifies population-level impacts of all infection isolations, making even delayed interventions effective. Combination of behavior-based NPIs and asymptomatic surveillance also reduces variation in daily case counts to produce more predictable epidemics. Furthermore, targeted, intensive testing of a minority of high transmission risk individuals can effectively control the COVID-19 epidemic for the surrounding population. Even in some highly vaccinated university settings in AY2021-2022, asymptomatic surveillance testing offers an effective means of identifying breakthrough infections, halting onward transmission, and reducing total caseload. We offer this blueprint and easy-to-implement modeling tool to other academic or professional communities navigating optimal return-to-work strategies.

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