Temporal dynamics and evolution of SARS-CoV-2 demonstrate the necessity of ongoing viral genome sequencing in Ontario, Canada

Sjaarda, C.P., J.L. Guthrie, S. Mubareka, J.T. Simpson, B. Hamelin, H. Wong, L. Mortimer, R. Slinger, A.G. McArthur, M. Desjardins, K. Douchant, Ontario’s COVID-19 Genomics Rapid Response Coalition, N. Fittipaldi, R.I. Colautti, & P.M. Sheth.

mSphere. 2021. 6:e00011-21.

Genome-wide variation in SARS-CoV-2 reveals evolution and transmission dynamics which are critical considerations for disease control and prevention decisions. Here, we review estimates of the genome-wide viral mutation rates, summarize current COVID-19 case load in the province of Ontario, Canada (5 January 2021), and analyze published SARS-CoV-2 genomes from Ontario (collected prior to 24 November 2020) to test for more infectious genetic variants or lineages. The reported mutation rate (∼10-6 nucleotide [nt]-1 cycle-1) for SARS-CoV-2 is typical for coronaviruses. Analysis of published SARS-CoV-2 genomes revealed that the G614 spike protein mutation has dominated infections in Ontario and that SARS-CoV-2 lineages present in Ontario have not differed significantly in their rate of spread. These results suggest that the SARS-CoV-2 population circulating in Ontario has not changed significantly to date. However, ongoing genome monitoring is essential for identification of new variants and lineages that may contribute to increased viral transmission.

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