The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a global pandemic since 2019. Variants of concern (VOCs) declared by the World Health Organization require continuous monitoring because of their possible changes in transmissibility, virulence, and antigenicity. The Omicron variant, a VOC, has become the dominant variant worldwide since November 2021. In the Republic of Korea (South Korea), the number of confirmed cases increased rapidly after the detection of Omicron VOC on November 24, 2021. In this study, we estimated the underlying epidemiological processes of Omicron VOC in South Korea using time-scaled phylodynamic analysis. Three distinct phylogenetic subgroups (Kor-O1, Kor-O2, and Kor-O3) were detected in South Korea. The Kor-O1 subgroup circulated in the Daegu region, whereas Kor-O2 and Kor-O3 circulated in Incheon and Jeollanam-do, respectively. The viral population size and case number of the Kor-O1 subgroup increased more rapidly than those of the other subgroups, indicating the rapid spread of the virus. The results indicated the multiple introductions of Omicron sub-lineages into South Korea and their subsequent co-circulation. The evolution and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 should be continuously monitored, and control strategies need to be improved to control the multiple variants.

Fuente: Scientific Reports

Published: 27 December 2022