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Nature: Assessing transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7 in England

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  • Nature: Assessing transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7 in England

    This is an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication.
    Nature Research are providing this early version of the manuscript as a service to our authors and readers.

    Published: 25 March 2021
    Erik Volz, Swapnil Mishra, Neil M. Ferguson


    The SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7, designated a Variant of Concern 202012/01 (VOC) by Public Health England1, originated in the UK in late Summer to early Autumn 20202. Whole genome SARS-CoV-2 sequence data collected from community-based diagnostic testing shows an unprecedentedly rapid expansion of the B.1.1.7 lineage during Autumn 2020, suggesting a selective advantage. We find that changes in VOC frequency inferred from genetic data correspond closely to changes inferred by S-gene target failures (SGTF) in community-based diagnostic PCR testing. Analysis of trends in SGTF and non-SGTF case numbers in local areas across England shows that the VOC has higher transmissibility than non-VOC lineages, even if the VOC has a different latent period or generation time. The SGTF data indicate a transient shift in the age composition of reported cases, with a larger share of under 20 year olds among reported VOC than non-VOC cases. Time-varying reproduction numbers for the VOC and cocirculating lineages were estimated using SGTF and genomic data. The best supported models did not indicate a substantial difference in VOC transmissibility among different age groups. There is a consensus among all analyses that the VOC has a substantial transmission advantage with a 50% to 100% higher reproduction number.

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