Background: The current propagation models of COVID-19 are poorly consistent with existing epidemiological data and with evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 genome is mutating, for potential aggressive evolution of the disease. Objectives: We looked for fundamental variables that were missing from current analyses. Among them were regional climate heterogeneity, viral evolution processes versus founder effects, and large-scale virus containment measures. Methods: We challenged regional versus genetic evolution models of COVID-19 at a whole-population level, over 168,089 laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection cases in Italy, Spain, and Scandinavia at early time-points of the pandemic. Diffusion data in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom provided a validation dataset of 210,239 additional cases. Results: Mean doubling time of COVID-19 cases was 6.63 days in Northern versus 5.38 days in Southern Italy. Spain extended this trend of faster diffusion in Southern Europe, with a doubling time of 4.2 days. Slower doubling times were observed in Sweden (9.4 days), Finland (10.8 days), and Norway (12.95 days). COVID-19 doubling time in Germany (7.0 days), France (7.5 days), and the United Kingdom (7.2 days) supported the North/South gradient model. Clusters of SARS-CoV-2 mutations upon sequential diffusion were not found to clearly correlate with regional distribution dynamics. Conclusion: Acquisition of mutations upon SARS-CoV-2 spreading failed to explain regional diffusion heterogeneity at early pandemic times. Our findings indicate that COVID-19 transmission rates are rather associated with a sharp North/South climate gradient, with faster spreading in Southern regions. Thus, warmer climate conditions may not limit SARS-CoV-2 infectivity. Very cold regions may be better spared by recurrent courses of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Genetic Drift Versus Climate Region Spreading Dynamics of COVID-19

Di Pietro R.
Co-primo
;
Basile M.
Co-primo
;
2021-01-01

Abstract

Background: The current propagation models of COVID-19 are poorly consistent with existing epidemiological data and with evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 genome is mutating, for potential aggressive evolution of the disease. Objectives: We looked for fundamental variables that were missing from current analyses. Among them were regional climate heterogeneity, viral evolution processes versus founder effects, and large-scale virus containment measures. Methods: We challenged regional versus genetic evolution models of COVID-19 at a whole-population level, over 168,089 laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection cases in Italy, Spain, and Scandinavia at early time-points of the pandemic. Diffusion data in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom provided a validation dataset of 210,239 additional cases. Results: Mean doubling time of COVID-19 cases was 6.63 days in Northern versus 5.38 days in Southern Italy. Spain extended this trend of faster diffusion in Southern Europe, with a doubling time of 4.2 days. Slower doubling times were observed in Sweden (9.4 days), Finland (10.8 days), and Norway (12.95 days). COVID-19 doubling time in Germany (7.0 days), France (7.5 days), and the United Kingdom (7.2 days) supported the North/South gradient model. Clusters of SARS-CoV-2 mutations upon sequential diffusion were not found to clearly correlate with regional distribution dynamics. Conclusion: Acquisition of mutations upon SARS-CoV-2 spreading failed to explain regional diffusion heterogeneity at early pandemic times. Our findings indicate that COVID-19 transmission rates are rather associated with a sharp North/South climate gradient, with faster spreading in Southern regions. Thus, warmer climate conditions may not limit SARS-CoV-2 infectivity. Very cold regions may be better spared by recurrent courses of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11564/765127
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