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To unravel the source of SARS-CoV-2 introduction and the pattern of its spreading and evolution in the United Arab Emirates, we conducted meta-transcriptome sequencing of 1,067 nasopharyngeal swab samples collected between May 9th and Jun 29th, 2020 during the first peak of the local COVID-19 epidemic. We identified global clade distribution and eleven novel genetic variants that were almost absent in the rest of the world defined five subclades specific to the UAE viral population. Cross-settlement human-to-human transmission was related to the local business activity. Perhaps surprisingly, at least 5% of the population were co-infected by SARS-CoV-2 of multiple clades within the same host. We also discovered an enrichment of cytosine-to-uracil mutation among the viral population collected from the nasopharynx, that is different from the adenosine-to-inosine change previously reported in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid samples and a previously unidentified upregulation of APOBEC4 expression in nasopharynx among infected patients, indicating the innate immune host response mediated by ADAR and APOBEC gene families could be tissue-specific. The genomic epidemiological and molecular biological knowledge reported here provides new insights for the SARS-CoV-2 evolution and transmission and points out future direction on host-pathogen interaction investigation.

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