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Molecular Architecture of Early Dissemination and Evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus in Metropolitan Houston, Texas

By S. Wesley Long, Randall J. Olsen, Paul A. Christensen, David W. Bernard, James R. Davis, Maulik Shukla, Marcus Nguyen, Matthew Ojeda Saavedra, Concepcion C. Cantu, Prasanti Yerramilli, Layne Pruitt, Sishir Subedi, Heather Hendrickson, Ghazaleh Eskandari, Muthiah Kumaraswami, Jason S McLellan, James M. Musser

Posted 01 May 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.01.072652 (published DOI: 10.1128/mbio.02707-20)

We sequenced the genomes of 320 SARS-CoV-2 strains from COVID-19 patients in metropolitan Houston, Texas, an ethnically diverse region with seven million residents. These genomes were from the viruses causing infections in the earliest recognized phase of the pandemic affecting Houston. Substantial viral genomic diversity was identified, which we interpret to mean that the virus was introduced into Houston many times independently by individuals who had traveled from different parts of the country and the world. The majority of viruses are apparent progeny of strains derived from Europe and Asia. We found no significant evidence of more virulent viral types, stressing the linkage between severe disease, underlying medical conditions, and perhaps host genetics. We discovered a signal of selection acting on the spike protein, the primary target of massive vaccine efforts worldwide. The data provide a critical resource for assessing virus evolution, the origin of new outbreaks, and the effect of host immune response. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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