Travel-driven emergence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.620 with multiple VOC-like mutations and deletions in Europe
Samuel L Hong,
Barney I Potter,
Frederic S Niatou-Singa,
Thais B Tombolomako,
Fabian H Leendertz,
Kim N Wijnant,
Alexandre M.J.J. Bonvin,
Martin F Maidadi,
Dowbiss M Djomsi,
Posted 08 May 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.05.04.21256637
Posted 08 May 2021
Many high-income countries have met the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic with overwhelming sequencing resources and have identified numerous distinct lineages, including some with notably altered biology. Over a year into the pandemic following unprecedented reductions in worldwide human mobility, distinct introduced lineages of SARS-CoV-2 without sequenced antecedents are increasingly discovered in high-income countries as a result of ongoing SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance initiatives. We here describe one such SARS-CoV-2 lineage, carrying many mutations and deletions in the spike protein shared with widespread variants of concern (VOCs), including E484K, S477N and deletions HV69del, Y144del, and LLA241/243del. This lineage - designated B.1.620 - is known to circulate in Lithuania and has now been found in several European states, but also in increasing numbers in central Africa owing to important recent increases in genome sequencing efforts on the continent. We provide evidence of likely ongoing local transmission of B.1.620 in Lithuania, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and the Central African Republic. We describe the suite of mutations this lineage carries, its potential to be resistant to neutralising antibodies, travel histories for a subset of the European cases, and evidence of local B.1.620 transmission in Europe. We make a case for the likely Central African origin of this lineage by providing travel records as well as the outcomes of carefully crafted phylogenetic and phylogeographic inference methodologies, the latter of which is able to exploit individual travel histories recorded for infected travellers having entered different European countries.
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