Epidemics. 2021 May 29;36:100472. doi: 10.1016/j.epidem.2021.100472. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: Many countries with an early outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 struggled to gauge the size and start date of the epidemic mainly due to limited testing capacities and a large proportion of undetected asymptomatic and mild infections. Iran was among the first countries with a major outbreak outside China.
METHODS: We constructed a globally representative sample of 802 genomes, including 46 samples from patients inside or with a travel history to Iran. We then performed a phylogenetic analysis to identify clades related to samples from Iran and estimated the start of the epidemic and early doubling times in cases. We leveraged air travel data from 36 exported cases of COVID-19 to estimate the point-prevalence and the basic reproductive number across the country. We also analysed the province-level all-cause mortality data during winter and spring 2020 to estimate under-reporting of COVID-19-related deaths. Finally, we use this information in an SEIR model to reconstruct the early outbreak dynamics and assess the effectiveness of intervention measures in Iran.
RESULTS: By identifying the most basal clade that contained genomes from Iran, our phylogenetic analysis showed that the age of the root is placed on 2019-12-21 (95 % HPD: 2019-09-07 - 2020-02-14). This date coincides with our estimated epidemic start date on 2019-12-25 (95 %CI: 2019-12-11 - 2020-02-24) based air travel data from exported cases with an early doubling time of 4.0 (95 %CI: 1.4-6.7) days in cases. Our analysis of all-cause mortality showed 21.9 (95 % CI: 16.7-27.2) thousand excess deaths by the end of summer. Our model forecasted the second epidemic peak and suggested that by 2020-08-31 a total of 15.0 (95 %CI: 4.9-25.0) million individuals recovered from the disease across the country.
CONCLUSION: These findings have profound implications for assessing the stage of the epidemic in Iran despite significant levels of under-reporting. Moreover, the results shed light on the dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 transmissions in Iran and central Asia. They also suggest that in the absence of border screening, there is a high risk of introduction from travellers from areas with active outbreaks. Finally, they show both that well-informed epidemic models are able to forecast episodes of resurgence following a relaxation of interventions, and that NPIs are key to controlling ongoing epidemics.
Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021 May 26;11:654813. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2021.654813. eCollection 2021.
COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease with devastating economic and public health impacts globally. Being a novel disease, current research is focused on a clearer understanding of the mechanisms involved in its pathogenesis and viable therapeutic strategies. Oxidative stress and inflammation are intertwined processes that play roles in disease progression and response to therapy via interference with multiple signaling pathways. The redox status of a host cell is an important factor in viral entry due to the unique conditions required for the conformational changes that ensure the binding and entry of a virus into the host cell. Upon entry into the airways, viral replication occurs and the innate immune system responds by activating macrophage and dendritic cells which contribute to inflammation. This review examines available literature and proposes mechanisms by which oxidative stress and inflammation could contribute to COVID-19 pathogenesis. Further, certain antioxidants currently undergoing some form of trial in COVID-19 patients and the corresponding required research gaps are highlighted to show how targeting oxidative stress and inflammation could ameliorate COVID-19 severity.
Virol Sin. 2021 May 11:1-9. doi: 10.1007/s12250-021-00383-x. Online ahead of print.
No avian H7N9 outbreaks have occurred since the introduction of H7N9 inactivated vaccine in the fall of 2017. However, H7N9 is still prevalent in poultry. To surveil the prevalence, genetic characteristics, and antigenic changes of H7N9, over 7000 oropharyngeal and cloaca swab specimens were collected from live poultry markets and farms in 15 provinces of China from 2017 to 2019. A total of 85 influenza virus subtype H7N9 strains were isolated and 20 representative strains were selected for genetic analysis and antigenicity evaluation. Results indicated the decreased prevalence of low-pathogenic H7N9 strains while highly-pathogenic H7N9 strains became dominated since the introduction of vaccine. Phylogenetic analysis showed that strains from 2019 formed an independent small branch and were genetically distant to strains isolated in 2013-2018. Analysis of key amino acid sites showed that the virus strains may adapt to the host environment evolutionally through mutation. Our analysis predicted additional potential glycosylation sites for HA and NA genes in the 2019 strains. Sequence analysis of HA gene in strains isolated from 2018 to 2019 showed that there were an increased nucleotide substitution rate and an increased mutation rate in the first and second nucleotides of coding codons within the open reading frame. The hemagglutination inhibition (HI) assay showed that H7-Re1 and H7-Re2 exhibited a lower HI titer for isolates from 2019, while H7-Re3 and rLN79 showed a high HI titer. The protective effect of the vaccine decreased after 15 months of use. Overall, under vaccination pressure, the evolution of influenza virus subtype H7N9 has accelerated.
Viruses. 2021 Mar 24;13(4):543. doi: 10.3390/v13040543.
We describe for the first time the genetic and antigenic characterization of 18 avian avulavirus type-6 viruses (AAvV-6) that were isolated from wild waterfowl in the Americas over the span of 12 years. Only one of the AAvV-6 viruses isolated failed to hemagglutinate chicken red blood cells. We were able to obtain full genome sequences of 16 and 2 fusion gene sequences from the remaining 2 isolates. This is more than double the number of full genome sequences available at the NCBI database. These AAvV-6 viruses phylogenetically grouped into the 2 existing AAvV-6 genotype subgroups indicating the existence of an intercontinental epidemiological link with other AAvV-6 viruses isolated from migratory waterfowl from different Eurasian countries. Antigenic maps made using HI assay data for these isolates showed that the two genetic groups were also antigenically distinct. An isolate representing each genotype was inoculated in specific pathogen free (SPF) chickens, however, no clinical symptoms were observed. A duplex fusion gene based real-time assay for the detection and genotyping of AAvV-6 to genotype 1 and 2 was developed. Using the developed assay, the viral shedding pattern in the infected chickens was examined. The chickens infected with both genotypes were able to shed the virus orally for about a week, however, no significant cloacal shedding was detected in chickens of both groups. Chickens in both groups developed detectable levels of anti-hemagglutinin antibodies 7 days after infection.
Front Public Health. 2021 Feb 10;9:644538. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.644538. eCollection 2021.
The rapid advancement in vaccine development represents a critical milestone that will help humanity tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the success of these efforts is not guaranteed, as it relies on the outcomes of national and international vaccination strategies. In this article, we highlight some of the challenges that Romania will face and propose a set of solutions to overcome them. With this in mind, we discuss issues such as the infrastructure of vaccine storage and delivery, the deployment and administration of immunisations, and the public acceptance of vaccines. The ways in which Romanian society will respond to a national COVID-19 vaccination campaign will be contingent on appropriate and timely actions. As many of the problems encountered in Romania are not unique, the proposed recommendations could be adapted and implemented in other countries that face similar issues, thereby informing better practices in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vet Microbiol. 2021 Mar;254:108985. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2021.108985. Epub 2021 Jan 13.
The genome of influenza A virus is negative-sense and segmented RNA, which is transcribed and replicated by the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) during the virus life cycle. The viral RdRp is thought to be an important host range and virulence determinant factor, and the 627 site of PB2 subunit is a highly acceptable key site of RdRp function. Besides, the function of RdRp is modulated by several host factors. Identification of the host factors interacting with RdRp is of great interest. Here, we tried to explore an effective method to study virus-host interaction by rescuing replication-competent recombinant influenza viruses carrying Strep tagged PB2. Subsequently, we tested several biological characteristics of recombinant viruses in cells and pathogenicity in mice. Then, we purified of protein complex of Strep tagged PB2 and host factors of interest from 293 T cells infected with recombinant viruses. After purification, we performed mass spectrometry to identify these proteins that interacting with PB2. We identified 57 host factors in total. Through Gene Ontology (GO) and Protein-Protein interaction (PPI) network analysis, we revealed the function and network of these proteins. In summary, we generated replication-competent recombinant influenza viruses by inserting a Strep-Tag into PB2 and purified host factors interacting with viral RdRp bearing a 627 K or 627E PB2. These proteins might function as host range and virulence determinants of influenza virus.
Emerg Microbes Infect. 2020 Dec;9(1):2622-2631. doi: 10.1080/22221751.2020.1850180.
Influenza viruses have an error-prone polymerase complex that facilitates a mutagenic environment. Antigenic mutants swiftly arise from this environment with the capacity to persist in both humans and economically important livestock even in the face of vaccination. Furthermore, influenza viruses can adjust the antigenicity of the haemagglutinin (HA) protein, the primary influenza immunogen, using one of four molecular mechanisms. Two prominent mechanisms are: (1) enhancing binding avidity of HA toward cellular receptors to outcompete antibody binding and (2) amino acid substitutions that introduce an N-linked glycan on HA that sterically block antibody binding. In this study we investigate the impact that adsorptive mutation and N-linked glycosylation have on receptor-binding, viral fitness, and antigenicity. We utilize the H9N2 A/chicken/Pakistan/SKP-827/16 virus which naturally contains HA residue T180 that we have previously shown to be an adsorptive mutant relative to virus with T180A. We find that the addition of N-linked glycans can be beneficial or deleterious to virus replication depending on the background receptor binding avidity. We also find that in some cases, an N-linked glycan can trump the effect of an avidity enhancing substitution with respect to antigenicity. Taken together these data shed light on a potential route to the generation of a virus which is "fit" and able to overcome vaccine pressure.
Transbound Emerg Dis. 2021 Jul;68(4):2622-2627. doi: 10.1111/tbed.13903. Epub 2020 Nov 17.
A retrospective investigation of pig tissue samples from different classical swine fever virus (CSFV) outbreaks was undertaken employing RT-PCR for possible coinfection with other swine viruses. Four samples from three different outbreaks were found to be coinfected with Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). Phylogenetic analysis was done based on complete E gene sequenced from all four coinfected samples. This revealed a new introduction of a divergent subgroup of JEV genotype I in India. This is the first report of detection of coinfection of JEV and CSFV in pigs and the first incidence of JEV genotype I in pigs in India.