As surges of the COVID-19 pandemic continue globally, including in Palestine, several new SARS-CoV-2 variants have been introduced. This expansion has impacted transmission, disease severity, virulence, diagnosis, therapy, and natural and vaccine-induced immunity. Here, 183 whole genome sequences (WGS) were analyzed, of which 129 were from Palestinian cases, 62 of which were collected in 11 Palestinian districts between October 2020 and April 2021and sequenced completely . A dramatic shift from the wild type to the Alpha variant (B 1.1.7) was observed within a short period of time. Cluster mapping revealed statistically significant clades in two main Palestinian cities, Al-Khalil (Monte Carlo hypothesis test-Poisson model, P = 0.00000000012) and Nablus (Monte Carlo hypothesis test-Poisson model, P = 0.014 and 0.015). The phylogenetic tree showed three main clusters of SARS-CoV-2 with high bootstrap values (>90). However, population genetics analysis showed a genetically homogenous population supported by low Wright’s F-statistic values (Fst <0.25), high gene flow (Nm > 3), and statistically insignificant Tajima’s D values (Tajima’s test, neutrality model prediction, P = 0.02). The Alpha variant, rapidly replaced the wild type, causing a major surge that peaked in April 2021, with an increased COVID-19 mortality rate, especially, in the Al-Khalil and Nablus districts. The source of introduction remains uncertain, despite the minimal genetic variation. The study substantiates the use of WGS for SARS-CoV-2 surveillance as an early warning system to track down new variants requiring effective control.

Fuente: Infection, Genetics and Evolution
Available online 4 April 2022, 105279
In Press, Journal Pre-proof