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

The COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Genetic and testing data from England show that the SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern B.1.1.7 has a transmission advantage over other lineages.

The SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7, designated variant of concern (VOC) 202012/01 by Public Health England(1), was first identified in the UK in late summer to early autumn 2020(2). Whole-genome SARS-CoV-2 sequence data collected from community-based diagnostic testing for COVID-19 show an extremely rapid expansion of the B.1.1.7 lineage during autumn 2020, suggesting that it has a selective advantage. Here we show 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 B.1.1.7 has higher transmissibility than non-VOC lineages, even if it has a different latent period or generation time. The SGTF data indicate a transient shift in the age composition of reported cases, with cases of B.1.1.7 including a larger share of under 20-year-olds than non-VOC cases. We estimated time-varying reproduction numbers for B.1.1.7 and co-circulating lineages using SGTF and genomic data. The best-supported models did not indicate a substantial difference in VOC transmissibility among different age groups, but all analyses agreed that B.1.1.7 has a substantial transmission advantage over other lineages, with a 50% to 100% higher reproduction number.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-269
Number of pages18
JournalNature
Volume593
Issue number7858
Early online date25 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

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