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Chasing the origin of SARS-CoV-2 in Canada's COVID-19 cases: A genomics study

By Calvin P Sjaarda, Nazneen Rustom, David Huang, Santiago Perez-Patrigeon, Melissa L Hudson, Henry Wong, T Hugh Guan, Muhammad Ayub, Claudio N Soares, Robert I Colautti, Gerald A Evans, Prameet M Sheth

Posted 25 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.25.171744

The emergence and global spread of SARS-CoV-2 has had profound social and economic consequences and has shed light on the importance of continued and additional investment in global health and infectious disease surveillance. Identifying changes in viral genomes provides key insights into viral diversity, how viruses spread within populations, and viral strategies for evasion of host immune systems. Here we report twenty-five SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences collected from some of the first COVID-19 cases in eastern Ontario, Canada (March 18-30, 2020). The reported genomes belong to the S-clade (n=2) and G-clade (n=23) of SARS-CoV-2 and contain 45 polymorphic sites including one shared missense and three unique synonymous variants in the gene encoding the spike protein. A phylogenetic analysis enabled the tracing of viral origin and potential transmission into and within Canada. There may be as many as sixteen unique infection events represented in these samples, including at least three that were likely introduced from Europe and seven from the USA. In addition, four separate genomes are each shared by multiple patients, suggesting a common origin or community spread even during this early stage of infection. These results demonstrate how molecular epidemiology and evolutionary phylogenetics can help local health units track origins and vectors of spread for emerging diseases like SARS-CoV-2. Earlier detection and screening in this way could improve the effectiveness of regional public health interventions to prevent future pandemics. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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