Molecular Epidemiology of AY.28 and AY.104 Delta Sub-lineages in Sri Lanka.
Ranasinghe D., Jayathilaka D., Jeewandara C., Gunasinghe D., Ariyaratne D., Jayadas TTP., Kuruppu H., Wijesinghe A., Bary FF., Madhusanka D., Pushpakumara PD., Guruge D., Wijayamuni R., Ogg GS., Malavige GN.
Background: The worst SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in Sri Lanka was due to the two Sri Lankan delta sub-lineages AY.28 and AY.104. We proceeded to further characterize the mutations and clinical disease severity of these two sub-lineages. Methods: 705 delta SARS-CoV-2 genomes sequenced by our laboratory from mid-May to November 2021 using Illumina and Oxford Nanopore were included in the analysis. The clinical disease severity of 440/705 individuals were further analyzed to determine if infection with either AY.28 or AY.104 was associated with more severe disease. Sub-genomic RNA (sg-RNA) expression was analyzed using periscope. Results: AY.28 was the dominant variant throughout the outbreak, accounting for 67.7% of infections during the peak of the outbreak. AY.28 had three lineage defining mutations in the spike protein: A222V (92.80%), A701S (88.06%), and A1078S (92.04%) and seven in the ORF1a: R24C, K634N, P1640L, A2994V, A3209V, V3718A, and T3750I. AY.104 was characterized by the high prevalence of T95I (90.81%) and T572L (65.01%) mutations in the spike protein and by the absence of P1640L (94.28%) in ORF1a with the presence of A1918V (98.58%) mutation. The mean sgRNA expression levels of ORF6 in AY.28 were significantly higher compared to AY.104 (p < 0.0001) and B.1.617.2 (p < 0.01). Also, ORF3a showed significantly higher sgRNA expression in AY.28 compared to AY.104 (p < 0.0001). There was no difference in the clinical disease severity or duration of hospitalization in individuals infected with these sub lineages. Conclusions: Therefore, AY.28 and AY.104 appear to have a fitness advantage over the parental delta variant (B.1.617.2), while AY.28 also had a higher expression of sg-RNA compared to other sub-lineages. The clinical implications of these should be further investigated.