13 results found
Mourier T, Shuaib M, Hala S, et al., 2022, SARS-CoV-2 genomes from Saudi Arabia implicate nucleocapsid mutations in host response and increased viral load, Nature Communications, Vol: 13, ISSN: 2041-1723
Monitoring SARS-CoV-2 spread and evolution through genome sequencing is essential in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we sequenced 892 SARS-CoV-2 genomes collected from patients in Saudi Arabia from March to August 2020. We show that two consecutive mutations (R203K/G204R) in the nucleocapsid (N) protein are associated with higher viral loads in COVID-19 patients. Our comparative biochemical analysis reveals that the mutant N protein displays enhanced viral RNA binding and differential interaction with key host proteins. We found increased interaction of GSK3A kinase simultaneously with hyper-phosphorylation of the adjacent serine site (S206) in the mutant N protein. Furthermore, the host cell transcriptome analysis suggests that the mutant N protein produces dysregulated interferon response genes. Here, we provide crucial information in linking the R203K/G204R mutations in the N protein to modulations of host-virus interactions and underline the potential of the nucleocapsid protein as a drug target during infection.
Volz E, Mishra S, Chand M, et al., 2021, Assessing transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7 in England, Nature, Vol: 593, Pages: 266-269, ISSN: 0028-0836
The SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7, designated a Variant of Concern 202012/01 (VOC) by Public Health England1, originated in the UK in late Summer to early Autumn 20202. Whole genome SARS-CoV-2 sequence data collected from community-based diagnostic testing shows an unprecedentedly rapid expansion of the B.1.1.7 lineage during Autumn 2020, suggesting a selective advantage. We find that changes in VOC frequency inferred from genetic data correspond closely to changes inferred by S-gene target failures (SGTF) in community-based diagnostic PCR testing. Analysis of trends in SGTF and non-SGTF case numbers in local areas across England shows that the VOC has higher transmissibility than non-VOC lineages, even if the VOC has a different latent period or generation time. The SGTF data indicate a transient shift in the age composition of reported cases, with a larger share of under 20 year olds among reported VOC than non-VOC cases. Time-varying reproduction numbers for the VOC and cocirculating lineages were estimated using SGTF and genomic data. The best supported models did not indicate a substantial difference in VOC transmissibility among different age groups. There is a consensus among all analyses that the VOC has a substantial transmission advantage with a 50% to 100% higher reproduction number.
Ragonnet-Cronin M, Boyd O, Geidelberg L, et al., 2021, Genetic evidence for the association between COVID-19 epidemic severity and timing of non-pharmaceutical interventions, Nature Communications, Vol: 12, Pages: 1-7, ISSN: 2041-1723
Unprecedented public health interventions including travel restrictions and national lockdowns have been implemented to stem the COVID-19 epidemic, but the effectiveness of non- pharmaceutical interventions is still debated. We carried out a phylogenetic analysis of more than 29,000 publicly available whole genome SARS-CoV-2 sequences from 57 locations to estimate the time that the epidemic originated in different places. These estimates were examined in relation to the dates of the most stringent interventions in each location as well as to the number of cumulative COVID-19 deaths and phylodynamic estimates of epidemic size. Here we report that the time elapsed between epidemic origin and maximum intervention is associated with different measures of epidemic severity and explains 11% of the variance in reported deaths one month after the most stringent intervention. Locations where strong non-pharmaceutical interventions were implemented earlier experienced 30 much less severe COVID-19 morbidity and mortality during the period of study.
Volz E, Hill V, McCrone J, et al., 2021, Evaluating the effects of SARS-CoV-2 Spike mutation D614G on transmissibility and pathogenicity, Cell, Vol: 184, Pages: 64-75.e11, ISSN: 0092-8674
In February 2020 a substitution at the interface between SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein subunits, Spike D614G, was observed in public databases. The Spike 614G variant subsequently increased in frequency in many locations throughout the world. Global patterns of dispersal of Spike 614G are suggestive of a selective advantage of this variant, however the origin of Spike 614G is associated with early colonization events in Europe and subsequent radiations to the rest of the world. Increasing frequency of 614G may therefore be due to a random founder effect. We investigate the hypothesis for positive selection of Spike 614G at the level of an individual country, the United Kingdom, using more than 25,000 whole genome SARS-CoV-2 sequences collected by COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium. Using phylogenetic analysis, we identify Spike 614G and 614D clades with unique origins in the UK and from these we extrapolate and compare growth rates of co-circulating transmission clusters. We find that Spike 614G clusters are introduced in the UK later on average than 614D clusters and grow to larger size after adjusting for time of introduction. Phylodynamic analysis does not show a significant increase in growth rates for clusters with the 614G variant, but population genetic modelling indicates that 614G increases in frequency relative to 614D in a manner consistent with a selective advantage. We also investigate the potential influence of Spike 614D versus G on virulence by matching a subset of records to clinical data on patient outcomes. We do not find any indication that patients infected with the Spike 614G variant have higher COVID-19 mortality, but younger patients have slightly increased odds of 614G carriage. Despite the availability of a very large data set, well represented by both Spike 614 variants, not all approaches showed a conclusive signal of higher transmission rate for 614G, but significant differences in growth, size, and composition of these lineages indicate a need
Geidelberg L, Boyd O, Jorgensen D, et al., 2021, Genomic epidemiology of a densely sampled COVID-19 outbreak in China, Virus Evolution, Vol: 7, Pages: 1-7, ISSN: 2057-1577
Analysis of genetic sequence data from the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic can provide insights into epidemic origins, worldwide dispersal, and epidemiological history. With few exceptions, genomic epidemiological analysis has focused on geographically distributed data sets with few isolates in any given location. Here we report an analysis of 20 whole SARS- CoV-2 genomes from a single relatively small and geographically constrained outbreak in Weifang, People’s Republic of China. Using Bayesian model-based phylodynamic methods, we estimate a mean basic reproduction number (R0) of 3.4 (95% highest posterior density interval: 2.1-5.2) in Weifang, and a mean effective reproduction number (Rt ) that falls below 1 on February 4th. We further estimate the number of infections through time and compare these estimates to confirmed diagnoses by the Weifang Centers for Disease Control. We find that these estimates are consistent with reported cases and there is unlikely to be a large undiagnosed burden of infection over the period we studied.
van Elsland S, Watson O, Alhaffar M, et al., 2020, Report 31: Estimating the burden of COVID-19 in Damascus, Syria: an analysis of novel data sources to infer mortality under-ascertainment
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in substantial mortality worldwide. However, to date, countries in the Middle East and Africa have reported substantially lower mortality rates than in Europe and the Americas. One hypothesis is that these countries have been ‘spared’, but another is that deaths have been under-ascertained (deaths that have been unreported due to any number of reasons, for instance due to limited testing capacity). However, the scale of under-ascertainment is difficult to assess with currently available data. In this analysis, we estimate the potential under-ascertainment of COVID-19 mortality in Damascus, Syria, where all-cause mortality data has been reported between 25th July and 1st August. We fit a mathematical model of COVID-19 transmission to reported COVID-19 deaths in Damascus since the beginning of the pandemic and compare the model-predicted deaths to reported excess deaths. Exploring a range of different assumptions about under-ascertainment, we estimate that only 1.25% of deaths (sensitivity range 1% - 3%) due to COVID-19 are reported in Damascus. Accounting for under-ascertainment also corroborates local reports of exceeded hospital bed capacity. To validate the epidemic dynamics inferred, we leverage community-uploaded obituary certificates as an alternative data source, which confirms extensive mortality under-ascertainment in Damascus between July and August. This level of under-ascertainment suggests that Damascus is at a much later stage in its epidemic than suggested by surveillance reports, which have repo. We estimate that 4,340 (95% CI: 3,250 - 5,540) deaths due to COVID-19 in Damascus may have been missed as of 2nd September 2020. Given that Damascus is likely to have the most robust surveillance in Syria, these findings suggest that other regions of the country could have experienced similar or worse mortality rates due to COVID-19.
Flaxman S, Mishra S, Gandy A, et al., 2020, Estimating the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in Europe, Nature, Vol: 584, Pages: 257-261, ISSN: 0028-0836
Following the emergence of a novel coronavirus1 (SARS-CoV-2) and its spread outside of China, Europe has experienced large epidemics. In response, many European countries have implemented unprecedented non-pharmaceutical interventions such as closure of schools and national lockdowns. We study the impact of major interventions across 11 European countries for the period from the start of COVID-19 until the 4th of May 2020 when lockdowns started to be lifted. Our model calculates backwards from observed deaths to estimate transmission that occurred several weeks prior, allowing for the time lag between infection and death. We use partial pooling of information between countries with both individual and shared effects on the reproduction number. Pooling allows more information to be used, helps overcome data idiosyncrasies, and enables more timely estimates. Our model relies on fixed estimates of some epidemiological parameters such as the infection fatality rate, does not include importation or subnational variation and assumes that changes in the reproduction number are an immediate response to interventions rather than gradual changes in behavior. Amidst the ongoing pandemic, we rely on death data that is incomplete, with systematic biases in reporting, and subject to future consolidation. We estimate that, for all the countries we consider, current interventions have been sufficient to drive the reproduction number Rt below 1 (probability Rt< 1.0 is 99.9%) and achieve epidemic control. We estimate that, across all 11 countries, between 12 and 15 million individuals have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 up to 4th May, representing between 3.2% and 4.0% of the population. Our results show that major non-pharmaceutical interventions and lockdown in particular have had a large effect on reducing transmission. Continued intervention should be considered to keep transmission of SARS-CoV-2 under control.
Volz E, Hill V, McCrone JT, et al., 2020, Evaluating the effects of SARS-CoV-2 Spike mutation D614G on transmissibility and pathogenicity, Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
<jats:title>Summary</jats:title><jats:p>Global dispersal and increasing frequency of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein variant D614G are suggestive of a selective advantage but may also be due to a random founder effect. We investigate the hypothesis for positive selection of Spike D614G in the United Kingdom using more than 25,000 whole genome SARS-CoV-2 sequences. Despite the availability of a large data set, well represented by both Spike 614 variants, not all approaches showed a conclusive signal of positive selection. Population genetic analysis indicates that 614G increases in frequency relative to 614D in a manner consistent with a selective advantage. We do not find any indication that patients infected with the Spike 614G variant have higher COVID-19 mortality or clinical severity, but 614G is associated with higher viral load and younger age of patients. Significant differences in growth and size of 614G phylogenetic clusters indicate a need for continued study of this variant.</jats:p>
Jorgensen D, Pons Salort M, Shaw A, et al., 2020, The role of genetic sequencing and analysis in the polio eradication program, Virus Evolution, Vol: 6, ISSN: 2057-1577
Genetic sequencing of polioviruses detected through clinical and environmental surveillance is used to confirm detection, identify their likely origin, track geographic patterns of spread and determine the appropriate vaccination response. The critical importance of genetic sequencing and analysis to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has grown with the increasing incidence of vaccine-derived poliovirus infections in Africa specifically (470 reported cases in 2019), and globally, alongside persistent transmission of serotype 1 wild-type poliovirus in Pakistan and Afghanistan (197 reported cases in 2019). Adapting what has been learned about the virus genetics and evolution to address these threats has been a major focus of recent work. Here we review how phylogenetic and phylogeographic methods have been used to trace the spread of wild-type polioviruses and identify the likely origins of vaccine-derived polioviruses. We highlight the analysis methods and sequencing technology currently used and the potential for new technologies to speed up poliovirus detection and the interpretation of genetic data. At a pivotal point in the eradication campaign with the threat of anti-vaccine sentiment and donor and public fatigue, innovation is critical to maintain drive and overcome the last remaining circulating virus.
Walker PGT, Whittaker C, Watson OJ, et al., 2020, The impact of COVID-19 and strategies for mitigation and suppression in low- and middle-income countries, Science, Vol: 369, Pages: 413-422, ISSN: 0036-8075
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic poses a severe threat to public health worldwide. We combine data on demography, contact patterns, disease severity, and health care capacity and quality to understand its impact and inform strategies for its control. Younger populations in lower income countries may reduce overall risk but limited health system capacity coupled with closer inter-generational contact largely negates this benefit. Mitigation strategies that slow but do not interrupt transmission will still lead to COVID-19 epidemics rapidly overwhelming health systems, with substantial excess deaths in lower income countries due to the poorer health care available. Of countries that have undertaken suppression to date, lower income countries have acted earlier. However, this will need to be maintained or triggered more frequently in these settings to keep below available health capacity, with associated detrimental consequences for the wider health, well-being and economies of these countries.
Ainslie KEC, Walters CE, Fu H, et al., 2020, Evidence of initial success for China exiting COVID-19 social distancing policy after achieving containment [version 1; peer review: 2 approved], Wellcome Open Res, Vol: 5, ISSN: 2398-502X
Background: The COVID-19 epidemic was declared a Global Pandemic by WHO on 11 March 2020. By 24 March 2020, over 440,000 cases and almost 20,000 deaths had been reported worldwide. In response to the fast-growing epidemic, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei, China imposed strict social distancing in Wuhan on 23 January 2020 followed closely by similar measures in other provinces. These interventions have impacted economic productivity in China, and the ability of the Chinese economy to resume without restarting the epidemic was not clear. Methods: Using daily reported cases from mainland China and Hong Kong SAR, we estimated transmissibility over time and compared it to daily within-city movement, as a proxy for economic activity. Results: Initially, within-city movement and transmission were very strongly correlated in the five mainland provinces most affected by the epidemic and Beijing. However, that correlation decreased rapidly after the initial sharp fall in transmissibility. In general, towards the end of the study period, the correlation was no longer apparent, despite substantial increases in within-city movement. A similar analysis for Hong Kong shows that intermediate levels of local activity were maintained while avoiding a large outbreak. At the very end of the study period, when China began to experience the re-introduction of a small number of cases from Europe and the United States, there is an apparent up-tick in transmission. Conclusions: Although these results do not preclude future substantial increases in incidence, they suggest that after very intense social distancing (which resulted in containment), China successfully exited its lockdown to some degree. Elsewhere, movement data are being used as proxies for economic activity to assess the impact of interventions. The results presented here illustrate how the eventual decorrelation between transmission and movement is likely a key feature of successful COVID-19 exit strategies.
The World Health Organization has called for increased molecular testing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but different countries have taken very different approaches. We used a simple mathematical model to investigate the potential effectiveness of alternative testing strategies for COVID-19 control. Weekly screening of healthcare workers (HCWs) and other at-risk groups using PCR or point-of-care tests for infection irrespective of symptoms is estimated to reduce their contribution to transmission by 25-33%, on top of reductions achieved by self-isolation following symptoms. Widespread PCR testing in the general population is unlikely to limit transmission more than contact-tracing and quarantine based on symptoms alone, but could allow earlier release of contacts from quarantine. Immunity passports based on tests for antibody or infection could support return to work but face significant technical, legal and ethical challenges. Testing is essential for pandemic surveillance but its direct contribution to the prevention of transmission is likely to be limited to patients, HCWs and other high-risk groups.
Ainslie K, Walters C, Fu H, et al., 2020, Report 11: Evidence of initial success for China exiting COVID-19 social distancing policy after achieving containment
The COVID-19 epidemic was declared a Global Pandemic by WHO on 11 March 2020. As of 20 March 2020, over 254,000 cases and 10,000 deaths had been reported worldwide. The outbreak began in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. In response to the fast-growing epidemic, China imposed strict social distancing in Wuhan on 23 January 2020 followed closely by similar measures in other provinces. At the peak of the outbreak in China (early February), there were between 2,000 and 4,000 new confirmed cases per day. For the first time since the outbreak began there have been no new confirmed cases caused by local transmission in China reported for five consecutive days up to 23 March 2020. This is an indication that the social distancing measures enacted in China have led to control of COVID-19 in China. These interventions have also impacted economic productivity in China, and the ability of the Chinese economy to resume without restarting the epidemic is not yet clear. Here, we estimate transmissibility from reported cases and compare those estimates with daily data on within-city movement, as a proxy for economic activity. Initially, within-city movement and transmission were very strongly correlated in the 5 provinces most affected by the epidemic and Beijing. However, that correlation is no longer apparent even though within-city movement has started to increase. A similar analysis for Hong Kong shows that intermediate levels of local activity can be maintained while avoiding a large outbreak. These results do not preclude future epidemics in China, nor do they allow us to estimate the maximum proportion of previous within-city activity that will be recovered in the medium term. However, they do suggest that after very intense social distancing which resulted in containment, China has successfully exited their stringent social distancing policy to some degree. Globally, China is at a more advanced stage of the pandemic. Policies implemented to reduce the spread of CO
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