Modeling the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 under non-pharmaceutical interventions and testing

Yael Gurevich, Yoav Ram, Lilach Hadany*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background and objectives: Social and behavioral non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), such as mask-wearing, social distancing and travel restrictions, as well as diagnostic tests, have been broadly implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Epidemiological models and data analysis affirm that wide adoption of NPIs helps to control the pandemic. However, SARS-CoV-2 has extensively demonstrated its ability to evolve. Therefore, it is crucial to examine how NPIs may affect the evolution of the virus. Such evolution could have important effects on the spread and impact of the pandemic. Methodology: We used evo-epidemiological models to examine the effect of NPIs and testing on two evolutionary trajectories for SARS-CoV-2: attenuation and test evasion. Results: Our results show that when stronger measures are taken, selection may act to reduce disease severity. Additionally, the timely application of NPIs could significantly affect the competition between viral strains, favoring the milder strain. Furthermore, a higher testing rate can select for a test-evasive viral strain, even if that strain is less infectious than the detectable competing strain. Importantly, if a less detectable strain evolves, epidemiological metrics such as confirmed daily cases may distort our assessment of the pandemic. Conclusions and implications: Our results highlight the important implications NPIs can have on the evolution of SARS-CoV-2. Lay Summary: We used evo-epidemiological models to examine the effect of non-pharmaceutical interventions and testing on two evolutionary trajectories for SARS-CoV-2: attenuation and test evasion. Our results show that when stronger measures are taken, selection may act to reduce disease severity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-188
Number of pages10
JournalEvolution, Medicine and Public Health
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Funding

FundersFunder number
Minerva Stiftung Center for Lab Evolution
Israel Science Foundation3811/19

    Keywords

    • SARS-CoV-2
    • coronavirus
    • evolution
    • non-pharmaceutical interventions

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