Forecasting outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant with Tajima’s D

On the twenty sixth of November, 2021, the World Well being Group declared the extreme acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variant B.1.1.529, Omicron, to be a variant of concern. The variant had uncommon options and distinctive mutations, which advised that therapeutic monoclonal antibodies could be much less efficient in opposition to it. Though investigations are ongoing, there’s a risk that the brand new variant might have an effect on viral transmission or the severity of sickness.

Study: Tajima D test accurately forecasts Omicron / COVID-19 outbreak. Image Credit: Adao/ShutterstockResearch: Tajima D take a look at precisely forecasts Omicron / COVID-19 outbreak. Picture Credit score: Adao/Shutterstock

Due to this fact, detecting it with accuracy is of paramount significance. In a brand new examine, revealed on the medRxiv* preprint server, scientists reported the validity and accuracy of the Tajima’s D take a look at rating, with a threshold worth of -2.50, as a predictor of latest coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) outbreaks.


The Omicron variant was first reported within the Gauteng province, South Africa on November 9, 2021. Preliminary proof from genotyping exams advised that Omicron might have been in circulation for fairly a while in South Africa. A serious concern is that this variant comprises greater than 30 mutations to the spike protein, a few of which had been beforehand recognized within the Delta or Alpha variants and had been linked to heightened infectivity and the flexibility to evade infection-blocking antibodies. The probability of upper transmission charges led many nations to reply rapidly by taking a number of strict measures.

The phylogenetic and evolutionary standing of the Omicron variant must be studied in larger element. Within the present examine, scientists investigated the phylogenetic relationship and choice strain by analyzing 131 accessible sequences of Omicron variant, from 10 nations, i.e., Austria, Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Italy, South Africa, and the UK, accessible from the GISAID information.

Key findings

Researchers discovered the insertion mutation Ins214EPE on the spike protein within the Omicron variant. At the very least 6 main subgroups of 131 Omicron variant sequences had been recognized after rooting with an outgroup virus sequence of SARS-CoV-2 WIV04 from Wuhan, China. 86.3% of the circumstances contained an insertion of 9 nucleotides (GAGCCAGAA) between nucleotide 22204 and 22205, which led to the insertion of three amino acids within the N-terminal area (NTD) of the spike protein.

Earlier analysis confirmed that the majority ins214 motifs had been uncommon in sequences of various lineages of SARS-CoV-2, with 3-4 amino acids being inserted. The amino acid identification at ins214 varies throughout SARS-CoV-2 and SC2r-CoV lineages. Nonetheless, the insertion dimension is conserved in Omicron. Whether or not or not INS214EPE impacts spike protein operate or immune response is one thing that future analysis ought to think about.

The choice strain of the Omicron variant was first analyzed by a number of neutrality exams. Seventy-five mutation websites had been recognized with nucleotide range equal to 0.00008, which is considerably decrease than the sooner outbreak of Delta within the UK or Australia. The Tajima D take a look at was calculated to match the nucleotide range and complete polymorphism and the obtained values had been discovered to be damaging and considerably totally different from zero. This end result indicated an extra of nucleotide variants of low frequency and {that a} robust choice and demographic enlargement was working within the Omicron variant. Taken collectively, the low nucleotide range and Tajima D values advised that the Omicron variant presumably unfold inside the inhabitants weeks earlier than the present samples had been collected.

One level to notice is that distinguishing between the affect of choice strain and demographic enlargement is troublesome and this makes the applying of Tajima D restricted. To handle this difficulty, scientists included further exams, such because the normalized DH take a look at and Zeng’s E take a look at, within the evaluation. Researchers beforehand demonstrated the restrictions to making use of the inter-species divergence for analyzing the choice strain of SARS-CoV-2. Within the present examine, a purifying choice utilizing a modified Tajima’s D statistics as an alternative of dN/dS (w) take a look at was used and the outcomes advised that purifying choice led to constraints on the impartial mutations at non-synonymous websites of the spike gene of the Omicron variant.


Researchers had beforehand noticed one-three weeks after the Tajima D worth fell beneath -2.50, Delta variant outbreaks emerged in India and the UK, and the Lambda variant outbreak emerged in South America. This led them to suggest that the Tajima D take a look at with a cut-off threshold worth at -2.50, might be a powerful predictor of latest SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks. The pattern dimension within the present examine was small (N=131), however regardless of that, a powerful damaging worth of Tajima D within the Omicron variant was detected. The findings had been additionally alarming as they advised that the Omicron outbreak had emerged someday earlier than the present breakout. In sum, the examine argued that that fast genomic sequence surveillance is completely essential and Tajima D exams needs to be included to foretell future outbreaks in numerous populations.

*Vital discover

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific experiences that aren’t peer-reviewed and, subsequently, shouldn’t be thought to be conclusive, information medical follow/health-related conduct, or handled as established info.

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