The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 causes the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding this virus, its mutations, and its transmission mechanisms is important to control the pandemic and develop treatments and vaccines.
Andreas Bergthaler, CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, and colleagues have used high-quality epidemiological data from Austria together with state-of-the-art virus genome sequencing to obtain detailed insights into the mutation behavior and transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The study is based on data collected during the early phase of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. The team sequenced the genome of over 500 virus samples from major infection clusters in Austria, e.g., in Ischgl and Vienna, reconstructed superspreading events, and tracked tourism-related viral spread.
The researchers used mutation analyses to reconstruct SARS-CoV2 clusters and uncovered a previously unknown link between two infection clusters. The team analyzed a chain of eight consecutive transmissions, and a precise breakdown of the transmission chain enabled them to closely observe the development of a new mutation of the virus. In addition, the researchers observed the mutation behavior of the virus during the course of the disease in 31 patients. The results could help to assess whether treatments influence the mutation characteristics of the virus.
The study provides important insights into the fundamental dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 mutations both within patients and during transmission events. It shows that contact tracing and virus mutation analysis can be powerful tools to understand the spread of COVID-19, especially when used together.
- Genomic epidemiology of superspreading events in Austria reveals mutational dynamics and transmission properties of SARS-CoV-2,
Alexandra Popa, Jakob-Wendelin Genger, Michael D. Nicholson, Thomas Penz, Daniela Schmid, Stephan W. Aberle, Benedikt Agerer, Alexander Lercher, Lukas Endler, Henrique Colaço, Mark Smyth, Michael Schuster, Miguel L. Grau, Francisco Martínez-Jiménez, Oriol Pich, Wegene Borena, Erich Pawelka, Zsofia Keszei, Martin Senekowitsch, Jan Laine, Judith H. Aberle, Monika Redlberger-Fritz, Mario Karolyi, Alexander Zoufaly, Sabine Maritschnik, Martin Borkovec, Peter Hufnagl, Manfred Nairz, Günter Weiss, Michael T. Wolfinger, Dorothee von Laer, Giulio Superti-Furga, Nuria Lopez-Bigas, Elisabeth Puchhammer-Stöckl, Franz Allerberger, Franziska Michor, Christoph Bock, Andreas Bergthaler,
Sci. Transl. Med. 2020.
Also of Interest
- Collection: SARS-CoV-2 Virus
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