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Full genome viral sequences inform patterns of SARS-CoV-2 spread into and within Israel

By Danielle Miller, Michael A. Martin, Noam Harel, Talia Kustin, Omer Tirosh, Moran Meir, Nadav Sorek, Shiraz Gefen-Halevi, Sharon Amit, Olesya Vorontsov, Dana Wolf, Avi Peretz, Yonat Shemer-Avni, Diana Roif-Kaminsky, Na'ama Kopelman, Amit Huppert, Katia Koelle, Adi Stern

Posted 22 May 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.21.20104521

Full genome sequences are increasingly used to track the geographic spread and transmission dynamics of viral pathogens. Here, with a focus on Israel, we sequenced 212 SARS-CoV-2 sequences and use them to perform a comprehensive analysis to trace the origins and spread of the virus. A phylogenetic analysis including thousands of globally sampled sequences allowed us to infer multiple independent introductions into Israel, followed by local transmission. Returning travelers from the U.S. contributed dramatically more to viral spread relative to their proportion in incoming infected travelers. Using phylodynamic analysis, we estimated that the basic reproduction number of the virus was initially around ~2.0-2.6, dropping by two-thirds following the implementation of social distancing measures. A comparison between reported and model-estimated case numbers indicated high levels of transmission heterogeneity in SARS-CoV-2 spread, with between 1-10% of infected individuals resulting in 80% of secondary infections. Overall, our findings underscore the ability of this virus to efficiently transmit between and within countries, as well as demonstrate the effectiveness of social distancing measures for reducing its spread.

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