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The past, current and future epidemiological dynamic of SARS-CoV-2

Balloux, François; Tan, Cedric; Swadling, Leo; Richard, Damien; Jenner, Charlotte; Maini, Mala; van Dorp, Lucy; (2022) The past, current and future epidemiological dynamic of SARS-CoV-2. Oxford Open Immunology , 3 (1) , Article iqac003. 10.1093/oxfimm/iqac003. Green open access

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Abstract

SARS-CoV-2, the agent of the COVID-19 pandemic, emerged in late 2019 in China, and rapidly spread throughout the world to reach all continents. As the virus expanded in its novel human host, viral lineages diversified through the accumulation of around two mutations a month on average. Different viral lineages have replaced each other since the start of the pandemic, with the most successful Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants of concern (VoCs) sequentially sweeping through the world to reach high global prevalence. Neither Alpha nor Delta was characterized by strong immune escape, with their success coming mainly from their higher transmissibility. Omicron is far more prone to immune evasion and spread primarily due to its increased ability to (re-)infect hosts with prior immunity. As host immunity reaches high levels globally through vaccination and prior infection, the epidemic is expected to transition from a pandemic regime to an endemic one where seasonality and waning host immunization are anticipated to become the primary forces shaping future SARS-CoV-2 lineage dynamics. In this review, we consider a body of evidence on the origins, host tropism, epidemiology, genomic and immunogenetic evolution of SARS-CoV-2 including an assessment of other coronaviruses infecting humans. Considering what is known so far, we conclude by delineating scenarios for the future dynamic of SARS-CoV-2, ranging from the good—circulation of a fifth endemic ‘common cold’ coronavirus of potentially low virulence, the bad—a situation roughly comparable with seasonal flu, and the ugly—extensive diversification into serotypes with long-term high-level endemicity.

Type: Article
Title: The past, current and future epidemiological dynamic of SARS-CoV-2
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/oxfimm/iqac003
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfimm/iqac003
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: coronaviruses, phylogenetics, host range, specific immunity, epidemic dynamic, endemicity
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Infection and Immunity
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10151367
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