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January 13, 2021 Wednesday 03:15:53 PM IST

COVID-19 transmission chains in the UK traced using genomic epidemiology

International Edu News

A team of scientists, led by researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh, has analysed the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK and produced the most fine-scaled and comprehensive genomic analysis of transmission of any epidemic to date. Their analysis draws on >50k virus genome sequences – 26k of which were gathered through the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium – offering a never-before-seen level of insight into the origins and behaviour of transmission chains since the start of the pandemic. The full analysis, published in Science, reveals that the virus was introduced to the UK well over a thousand times in early 2020 and that the rate and source of introduction changed very quickly. During this time the highest number of transmission chains were introduced from Spain (33%), France (29%), and then Italy (12%) – with China accounting for only 0.4% of imports. The study shows how the UK national lockdown affected individual transmission chains.

The results offer a crucial context to what is happening now in the UK’s second wave, and the team has contributed to the identification of the new variant (termed B.1.1.7) growing rapidly in the UK. The scientists say that detailed comparison of the new variant’s behaviour with that of first wave lineages will be crucial to understanding why B.1.1.7 is now spreading so quickly.