Background: The degree of heterotypic immunity induced by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) strains is a major determinant of the spread of emerging variants and the success of vaccination campaigns, but remains incompletely understood.
Methods: We examined the immunogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 (Alpha) that arose in the United Kingdom and spread globally. We determined titres of spike glycoprotein-binding antibodies and authentic virus neutralising antibodies induced by B.1.1.7 infection to infer homotypic and heterotypic immunity.
Results: Antibodies elicited by B.1.1.7 infection exhibited significantly reduced recognition and neutralisation of parental strains or of the South Africa variant B.1.351 (Beta) than of the infecting variant. The drop in cross-reactivity was significantly more pronounced following B.1.1.7 than parental strain infection.
Conclusions: The results indicate that heterotypic immunity induced by SARS-CoV-2 variants is asymmetric.
All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files.
- Nikhil Faulkner
- Kevin W Ng
- Mary Y Wu
- Ruth Harvey
- Saira Hussain
- Maria Greco
- William Bolland
- Scott Warchal
- Svend Kjaer
- Charles Swanton
- Sonia Gandhi
- Rupert Beale
- Steve j Gamblin
- John W McCauley
- Rodney Stuart Daniels
- Michael Howell
- David Bauer
- George Kassiotis
- Alex Sigal
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: Serum or plasma samples were obtained from University College London Hospitals (UCLH) (REC ref: 20/HRA/2505).
- Bavesh D Kana, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
© 2021, Faulkner et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Mobile genetic elements (MGEs) are agents of horizontal gene transfer in bacteria, but can also be vertically inherited by daughter cells. Establishing the dynamics that led to contemporary patterns of MGEs in bacterial genomes is central to predicting the emergence and evolution of novel and resistant pathogens. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) clonal-complex (CC) 398 is the dominant MRSA in European livestock and a growing cause of human infections. Previous studies have identified three categories of MGEs whose presence or absence distinguishes livestock-associated CC398 from a closely related and less antibiotic-resistant human-associated population. Here, we fully characterise the evolutionary dynamics of these MGEs using a collection of 1180 CC398 genomes, sampled from livestock and humans, over 27 years. We find that the emergence of livestock-associated CC398 coincided with the acquisition of a Tn916 transposon carrying a tetracycline resistance gene, which has been stably inherited for 57 years. This was followed by the acquisition of a type V SCCmec that carries methicillin, tetracycline, and heavy metal resistance genes, which has been maintained for 35 years, with occasional truncations and replacements with type IV SCCmec. In contrast, a class of prophages that carry a human immune evasion gene cluster and that are largely absent from livestock-associated CC398 have been repeatedly gained and lost in both human- and livestock-associated CC398. These contrasting dynamics mean that when livestock-associated MRSA is transmitted to humans, adaptation to the human host outpaces loss of antibiotic resistance. In addition, the stable inheritance of resistance-associated MGEs suggests that the impact of ongoing reductions in antibiotic and zinc oxide use in European farms on livestock-associated MRSA will be slow to be realised.
Detecting factors associated with transmission is important to understand disease epidemics, and to design effective public health measures. Clustering and terminal branch lengths (TBL) analyses are commonly applied to genomic data sets of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) to identify sub-populations with increased transmission. Here, I used a simulation-based approach to investigate what epidemiological processes influence the results of clustering and TBL analyses, and whether differences in transmission can be detected with these methods. I simulated MTB epidemics with different dynamics (latency, infectious period, transmission rate, basic reproductive number R0, sampling proportion, sampling period, and molecular clock), and found that all considered factors, except for the length of the infectious period, affect the results of clustering and TBL distributions. I show that standard interpretations of this type of analyses ignore two main caveats: (1) clustering results and TBL depend on many factors that have nothing to do with transmission, (2) clustering results and TBL do not tell anything about whether the epidemic is stable, growing, or shrinking, unless all the additional parameters that influence these metrics are known, or assumed identical between sub-populations. An important consequence is that the optimal SNP threshold for clustering depends on the epidemiological conditions, and that sub-populations with different epidemiological characteristics should not be analyzed with the same threshold. Finally, these results suggest that different clustering rates and TBL distributions, that are found consistently between different MTB lineages, are probably due to intrinsic bacterial factors, and do not indicate necessarily differences in transmission or evolutionary success.