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Áine O'Toole

Other affiliations: Trinity College, Dublin
Bio: Áine O'Toole is a academic researcher from University of Edinburgh. The author has contributed to research in topic(s): Lineage (evolution) & Population. The author has an hindex of 22, co-authored 47 publication(s) receiving 4013 citation(s). Previous affiliations of Áine O'Toole include Trinity College, Dublin. more


Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1038/S41564-020-0770-5
Andrew Rambaut1, Edward C. Holmes2, Áine O'Toole1, Verity Hill1  +4 moreInstitutions (4)
Abstract: The ongoing pandemic spread of a new human coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which is associated with severe pneumonia/disease (COVID-19), has resulted in the generation of tens of thousands of virus genome sequences. The rate of genome generation is unprecedented, yet there is currently no coherent nor accepted scheme for naming the expanding phylogenetic diversity of SARS-CoV-2. Here, we present a rational and dynamic virus nomenclature that uses a phylogenetic framework to identify those lineages that contribute most to active spread. Our system is made tractable by constraining the number and depth of hierarchical lineage labels and by flagging and delabelling virus lineages that become unobserved and hence are probably inactive. By focusing on active virus lineages and those spreading to new locations, this nomenclature will assist in tracking and understanding the patterns and determinants of the global spread of SARS-CoV-2. more

1,074 Citations

Open accessPosted ContentDOI: 10.1101/2020.12.30.20249034
Erik M. Volz1, Swapnil Mishra1, Meera Chand2, Jeffrey C. Barrett3  +31 moreInstitutions (4)
04 Jan 2021-medRxiv
Abstract: The SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7, now designated Variant of Concern 202012/01 (VOC) by Public Health England, originated in the UK in late Summer to early Autumn 2020. We examine epidemiological evidence for this VOC having a transmission advantage from several perspectives. First, whole genome sequence data collected from community-based diagnostic testing provides an indication of changing prevalence of different genetic variants through time. Phylodynamic modelling additionally indicates that genetic diversity of this lineage has changed in a manner consistent with exponential growth. Second, we find that changes in VOC frequency inferred from genetic data correspond closely to changes inferred by S-gene target failures (SGTF) in community-based diagnostic PCR testing. Third, we examine growth trends in SGTF and non-SGTF case numbers at local area level across England, and show that the VOC has higher transmissibility than non-VOC lineages, even if the VOC has a different latent period or generation time. Available SGTF data indicate a shift in the age composition of reported cases, with a larger share of under 20 year olds among reported VOC than non-VOC cases. Fourth, we assess the association of VOC frequency with independent estimates of the overall SARS-CoV-2 reproduction number through time. Finally, we fit a semi-mechanistic model directly to local VOC and non-VOC case incidence to estimate the reproduction numbers over time for each. There is a consensus among all analyses that the VOC has a substantial transmission advantage, with the estimated difference in reproduction numbers between VOC and non-VOC ranging between 0.4 and 0.7, and the ratio of reproduction numbers varying between 1.4 and 1.8. We note that these estimates of transmission advantage apply to a period where high levels of social distancing were in place in England; extrapolation to other transmission contexts therefore requires caution. more

442 Citations

Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/J.CELL.2020.11.020
Erik M. Volz1, Verity Hill2, John T. McCrone2, Anna Price3  +27 moreInstitutions (7)
07 Jan 2021-Cell
Abstract: Global dispersal and increasing frequency of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein variant D614G are suggestive of a selective advantage but may also be due to a random founder effect. We investigate the hypothesis for positive selection of spike D614G in the United Kingdom using more than 25,000 whole genome SARS-CoV-2 sequences. Despite the availability of a large dataset, well represented by both spike 614 variants, not all approaches showed a conclusive signal of positive selection. Population genetic analysis indicates that 614G increases in frequency relative to 614D in a manner consistent with a selective advantage. We do not find any indication that patients infected with the spike 614G variant have higher COVID-19 mortality or clinical severity, but 614G is associated with higher viral load and younger age of patients. Significant differences in growth and size of 614G phylogenetic clusters indicate a need for continued study of this variant. more

Topics: Population (53%)

430 Citations

Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1038/S41586-021-03470-X
Erik M. Volz1, Swapnil Mishra1, Meera Chand2, Jeffrey C. Barrett3  +32 moreInstitutions (6)
25 Mar 2021-Nature
Abstract: The SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7, designated variant of concern (VOC) 202012/01 by Public Health England1, was first identified in the UK in late summer to early autumn 20202. Whole-genome SARS-CoV-2 sequence data collected from community-based diagnostic testing for COVID-19 show an extremely rapid expansion of the B.1.1.7 lineage during autumn 2020, suggesting that it has a selective advantage. Here we show that changes in VOC frequency inferred from genetic data correspond closely to changes inferred by S gene target failures (SGTF) in community-based diagnostic PCR testing. Analysis of trends in SGTF and non-SGTF case numbers in local areas across England shows that B.1.1.7 has higher transmissibility than non-VOC lineages, even if it has a different latent period or generation time. The SGTF data indicate a transient shift in the age composition of reported cases, with cases of B.1.1.7 including a larger share of under 20-year-olds than non-VOC cases. We estimated time-varying reproduction numbers for B.1.1.7 and co-circulating lineages using SGTF and genomic data. The best-supported models did not indicate a substantial difference in VOC transmissibility among different age groups, but all analyses agreed that B.1.1.7 has a substantial transmission advantage over other lineages, with a 50% to 100% higher reproduction number. more

309 Citations

Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/J.CELL.2021.01.037
E. Thomson1, E. Thomson2, Laura E. Rosen, James G Shepherd1  +67 moreInstitutions (16)
04 Mar 2021-Cell
Abstract: SARS-CoV-2 can mutate and evade immunity, with consequences for efficacy of emerging vaccines and antibody therapeutics Here, we demonstrate that the immunodominant SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) receptor binding motif (RBM) is a highly variable region of S and provide epidemiological, clinical, and molecular characterization of a prevalent, sentinel RBM mutation, N439K We demonstrate N439K S protein has enhanced binding affinity to the hACE2 receptor, and N439K viruses have similar in vitro replication fitness and cause infections with similar clinical outcomes as compared to wild type We show the N439K mutation confers resistance against several neutralizing monoclonal antibodies, including one authorized for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and reduces the activity of some polyclonal sera from persons recovered from infection Immune evasion mutations that maintain virulence and fitness such as N439K can emerge within SARS-CoV-2 S, highlighting the need for ongoing molecular surveillance to guide development and usage of vaccines and therapeutics more

270 Citations

Cited by

Open access
Marco Cascella, Michael Rajnik, A. Cuomo1, Scott C. Dulebohn  +1 moreInstitutions (2)
20 Mar 2020-
Abstract: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), viral diseases continue to emerge and represent a serious issue to public health In the last twenty years, several viral epidemics such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in 2002 to 2003, and H1N1 influenza in 2009, have been recorded Most recently, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 In a timeline that reaches the present day, an epidemic of cases with unexplained low respiratory infections detected in Wuhan, the largest metropolitan area in China's Hubei province, was first reported to the WHO Country Office in China, on December 31, 2019 Published literature can trace the beginning of symptomatic individuals back to the beginning of December 2019 As they were unable to identify the causative agent, these first cases were classified as "pneumonia of unknown etiology " The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local CDCs organized an intensive outbreak investigation program The etiology of this illness is now attributed to a novel virus belonging to the coronavirus (CoV) family, COVID-19 On February 11, 2020, the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced that the disease caused by this new CoV was a "COVID-19," which is the acronym of "coronavirus disease 2019" In the past twenty years, two additional coronavirus epidemics have occurred SARS-CoV provoked a large-scale epidemic beginning in China and involving two dozen countries with approximately 8000 cases and 800 deaths, and the MERS-CoV that began in Saudi Arabia and has approximately 2,500 cases and 800 deaths and still causes as sporadic cases This new virus seems to be very contagious and has quickly spread globally In a meeting on January 30, 2020, per the International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005), the outbreak was declared by the WHO a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) as it had spread to 18 countries with four countries reporting human-to-human transmission An additional landmark occurred on February 26, 2020, as the first case of the disease, not imported from China, was recorded in the United States Initially, the new virus was called 2019-nCoV Subsequently, the task of experts of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) termed it the SARS-CoV-2 virus as it is very similar to the one that caused the SARS outbreak (SARS-CoVs) The CoVs have become the major pathogens of emerging respiratory disease outbreaks They are a large family of single-stranded RNA viruses (+ssRNA) that can be isolated in different animal species For reasons yet to be explained, these viruses can cross species barriers and can cause, in humans, illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as MERS and SARS Interestingly, these latter viruses have probably originated from bats and then moving into other mammalian hosts — the Himalayan palm civet for SARS-CoV, and the dromedary camel for MERS-CoV — before jumping to humans The dynamics of SARS-Cov-2 are currently unknown, but there is speculation that it also has an animal origin The potential for these viruses to grow to become a pandemic worldwide seems to be a serious public health risk Concerning COVID-19, the WHO raised the threat to the CoV epidemic to the "very high" level, on February 28, 2020 Probably, the effects of the epidemic caused by the new CoV has yet to emerge as the situation is quickly evolving World governments are at work to establish countermeasures to stem possible devastating effects Health organizations coordinate information flows and issues directives and guidelines to best mitigate the impact of the threat At the same time, scientists around the world work tirelessly, and information about the transmission mechanisms, the clinical spectrum of disease, new diagnostics, and prevention and therapeutic strategies are rapidly developing Many uncertainties remain with regard to both the virus-host interac ion and the evolution of the epidemic, with specific reference to the times when the epidemic will reach its peak At the moment, the therapeutic strategies to deal with the infection are only supportive, and prevention aimed at reducing transmission in the community is our best weapon Aggressive isolation measures in China have led to a progressive reduction of cases in the last few days In Italy, in geographic regions of the north of the peninsula, political and health authorities are making incredible efforts to contain a shock wave that is severely testing the health system In the midst of the crisis, the authors have chosen to use the "Statpearls" platform because, within the PubMed scenario, it represents a unique tool that may allow them to make updates in real-time The aim, therefore, is to collect information and scientific evidence and to provide an overview of the topic that will be continuously updated more

Topics: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (56%), Pandemic (53%), Outbreak (52%) more

1,537 Citations

Open accessDOI: 10.13028/PSDV-3088
01 Jan 2020-

1,011 Citations

Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1126/SCIENCE.ABG3055
09 Apr 2021-Science
Abstract: A severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variant, VOC 202012/01 (lineage B.1.1.7), emerged in southeast England in September 2020 and is rapidly spreading toward fixation. Using a variety of statistical and dynamic modeling approaches, we estimate that this variant has a 43 to 90% (range of 95% credible intervals, 38 to 130%) higher reproduction number than preexisting variants. A fitted two-strain dynamic transmission model shows that VOC 202012/01 will lead to large resurgences of COVID-19 cases. Without stringent control measures, including limited closure of educational institutions and a greatly accelerated vaccine rollout, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths across England in the first 6 months of 2021 were projected to exceed those in 2020. VOC 202012/01 has spread globally and exhibits a similar transmission increase (59 to 74%) in Denmark, Switzerland, and the United States. more

937 Citations

Open accessPosted ContentDOI: 10.1101/2020.12.21.20248640
22 Dec 2020-medRxiv
Abstract: Summary Continued uncontrolled transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in many parts of the world is creating the conditions for significant virus evolution. Here, we describe a new SARS-CoV-2 lineage (501Y.V2) characterised by eight lineage-defining mutations in the spike protein, including three at important residues in the receptor-binding domain (K417N, E484K and N501Y) that may have functional significance. This lineage emerged in South Africa after the first epidemic wave in a severely affected metropolitan area, Nelson Mandela Bay, located on the coast of the Eastern Cape Province. This lineage spread rapidly, becoming within weeks the dominant lineage in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape Provinces. Whilst the full significance of the mutations is yet to be determined, the genomic data, showing the rapid displacement of other lineages, suggest that this lineage may be associated with increased transmissibility. more

Topics: Coronavirus (51%)

763 Citations

Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.7554/ELIFE.61312
Yiska Weisblum1, Fabian Schmidt1, Fengwen Zhang1, Justin DaSilva1  +23 moreInstitutions (4)
28 Oct 2020-eLife
Abstract: Neutralizing antibodies elicited by prior infection or vaccination are likely to be key for future protection of individuals and populations against SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, passively administered antibodies are among the most promising therapeutic and prophylactic anti-SARS-CoV-2 agents. However, the degree to which SARS-CoV-2 will adapt to evade neutralizing antibodies is unclear. Using a recombinant chimeric VSV/SARS-CoV-2 reporter virus, we show that functional SARS-CoV-2 S protein variants with mutations in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) and N-terminal domain that confer resistance to monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma can be readily selected. Notably, SARS-CoV-2 S variants that resist commonly elicited neutralizing antibodies are now present at low frequencies in circulating SARS-CoV-2 populations. Finally, the emergence of antibody-resistant SARS-CoV-2 variants that might limit the therapeutic usefulness of monoclonal antibodies can be mitigated by the use of antibody combinations that target distinct neutralizing epitopes. more

Topics: Monoclonal antibody (57%)

671 Citations


Author's H-index: 22

No. of papers from the Author in previous years

Top Attributes

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Author's top 5 most impactful journals


9 papers, 633 citations

Nature microbiology

6 papers, 1.3K citations


5 papers, 44 citations


3 papers, 707 citations

Virus Evolution

3 papers, 73 citations

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