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Phylogenetic estimates of SARS-CoV-2 introductions into Washington State

By Diana M Tordoff, Alexander Greninger, Pavitra Roychoudhury, Lasata Shretha, Hong Xie, Keith R Jerome, Nathan Breit, Meei-Li Huang, Mike Famulare, Joshua T Herbeck

Posted 07 Apr 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.05.21254924

Background: The first confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 in North America was identified in Washington state on January 21, 2020. We aimed to quantify the number and temporal trends of out-of-state introductions of SARS-CoV-2 into Washington. Methods: We conducted a phylogenetic analysis of 11,422 publicly available whole genome SARS-CoV-2 sequences from GISAID sampled between December 2019 and September 2020. We used maximum parsimony ancestral state reconstruction methods on time-calibrated phylogenies to enumerate introductions/exports, their likely geographic source (e.g. US, non-US, and between eastern and western Washington), and estimated date of introduction. To incorporate phylogenetic uncertainty into our estimates, we conducted 5,000 replicate analyses by generating 25 random time-stratified samples of non-Washington reference sequences, 20 random polytomy resolutions, and 10 random resolutions of the reconstructed ancestral state. Results: We estimated a minimum 287 separate introductions (median, range 244-320) into Washington and 204 exported lineages (range 188-227) of SARS-CoV-2 out of Washington. Introductions began in mid-January and peaked on March 29, 2020. Lineages with the Spike D614G variant accounted for the majority (88%) of introductions. Overall, 61% (range 55-65%) of introductions into Washington likely originated from a source elsewhere within the US, while the remaining 39% (range 35-45%) likely originated from outside of the US. Intra-state transmission accounted for 65% and 28% of introductions into eastern and western Washington, respectively. Conclusions: There is phylogenetic evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in Washington is continually seeded by a large number of introductions, and that there was significant inter- and intra-state transmission. Due to incomplete sampling our data underestimate the true number of introductions.

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