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Genomic epidemiology of early SARS-CoV-2 transmission dynamics in Gujarat, India

By Jayna Raghwani, Louis Raymond du Plessis, John T. McCrone, Sarah C. Hill, Kris V Parag, Julien Theze, Dinesh Kumar, Apurva Puvar, Ramesh Pandit, Oliver Pybus, Guillaume Fournie, Madhvi Joshi, Chaitanya Joshi

Posted 31 Aug 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.08.31.21262680

Genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 has played a decisive role in understanding the transmission and evolution of the virus during its emergence and continued circulation. However, limited genomic sampling in many high-incidence countries has impeded detailed studies of SARS-CoV-2 genomic epidemiology. Consequently, critical questions remain about the generation and global distribution of virus genetic diversity. To address this gap, we investigated SARS-CoV-2 transmission dynamics in Gujarat, India, during its first epidemic wave and shed light on virus' spread in one of the pandemic's hardest-hit regions. By integrating regional case data and 434 whole virus genome sequences sampled across 20 districts from March to July 2020, we reconstructed the epidemic dynamics and spatial spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Gujarat, India. Our findings revealed that global and regional connectivity, along with population density, were significant drivers of the Gujarat SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. The three most populous districts in Gujarat accounted ~84% of total cases during the first wave. Moreover, we detected over 100 virus lineage introductions, which were primarily associated with international travel. Within Gujarat, virus dissemination occurred predominantly from densely populated regions to geographically proximate locations with low-population density. Our findings suggest SARS-CoV-2 transmission follows a gravity model in India, with urban centres contributing disproportionately to onward virus spread.

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