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Article

Variant Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 Genomes from Belgian Military Personnel Engaged in Overseas Missions and Operations

1
Laboratory for Molecular and Cellular Technology, Queen Astrid Military Hospital, 1120 Brussels, Belgium
2
Unit of Virology and Outbreak Research Team, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Institute of Tropical Medicine, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
3
Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation, Rega Institute, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
4
European Commission, Directorate-General Joint Research Centre (JRC), 21027 Ispra, Italy
5
Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre, 413 19 Gothenburg, Sweden
6
Hematology, Oncology and Transfusion Medicine Center, Vilnius University Hospital Santaros Klinikos, 08410 Vilnius, Lithuania
7
Clinical Laboratory, Queen Astrid Military Hospital, 1120 Brussels, Belgium
8
Spatial Epidemiology Lab (SpELL), Université Libre de Bruxelles, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium
9
Department of Laboratory Medicine, UZ Leuven Hospital, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
10
European Commission, Directorate-General Joint Research Centre (JRC), 1050 Brussels, Belgium
11
Department of Diagnostic Sciences, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
12
Queen Astrid Military Hospital, 1120 Brussels, Belgium
13
14th Medical Battalion, 1800 Peutie, Belgium
14
Medical Component, Ministry of Defense, 1140 Brussels, Belgium
15
Unit of Virology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Institute of Tropical Medicine, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
16
Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Antwerp, 2610 Antwerp, Belgium
17
Laboratory of Clinical Bacteriology and Mycology, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation, Rega Institute, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
18
Center for Infectious Diseases, Queen Astrid Military Hospital, 1120 Brussels, Belgium
19
Department of Clinical Sciences, Institute of Tropical Medicine, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Academic Editors: Manuel Ramos-Casals, Antoni Sisó-Almirall and Luca Quartuccio
Viruses 2021, 13(7), 1359; https://doi.org/10.3390/v13071359
Received: 17 June 2021 / Revised: 6 July 2021 / Accepted: 8 July 2021 / Published: 13 July 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19—Advances in Clinical and Epidemiological Aspects)
More than a year after the first identification of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) as the causative agent of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in China, the emergence and spread of genomic variants of this virus through travel raise concerns regarding the introduction of lineages in previously unaffected regions, requiring adequate containment strategies. Concomitantly, such introductions fuel worries about a possible increase in transmissibility and disease severity, as well as a possible decrease in vaccine efficacy. Military personnel are frequently deployed on missions around the world. As part of a COVID-19 risk mitigation strategy, Belgian Armed Forces that engaged in missions and operations abroad were screened (7683 RT-qPCR tests), pre- and post-mission, for the presence of SARS-CoV-2, including the identification of viral lineages. Nine distinct viral genotypes were identified in soldiers returning from operations in Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, and Mali. The SARS-CoV-2 variants belonged to major clades 19B, 20A, and 20B (Nextstrain nomenclature), and included “variant of interest” B.1.525, “variant under monitoring” A.27, as well as lineages B.1.214, B.1, B.1.1.254, and A (pangolin nomenclature), some of which are internationally monitored due to the specific mutations they harbor. Through contact tracing and phylogenetic analysis, we show that isolation and testing policies implemented by the Belgian military command appear to have been successful in containing the influx and transmission of these distinct SARS-CoV-2 variants into military and civilian populations. View Full-Text
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; military; outbreak; variants; genomic epidemiology SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; military; outbreak; variants; genomic epidemiology
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Figure 1

MDPI and ACS Style

Pirnay, J.-P.; Selhorst, P.; Hong, S.L.; Cochez, C.; Potter, B.; Maes, P.; Petrillo, M.; Dudas, G.; Claes, V.; Van der Beken, Y.; Verbeken, G.; Degueldre, J.; Dellicour, S.; Cuypers, L.; T’Sas, F.; Van den Eede, G.; Verhasselt, B.; Weuts, W.; Smets, C.; Mertens, J.; Geeraerts, P.; Ariën, K.K.; André, E.; Neirinckx, P.; Soentjens, P.; Baele, G. Variant Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 Genomes from Belgian Military Personnel Engaged in Overseas Missions and Operations. Viruses 2021, 13, 1359. https://doi.org/10.3390/v13071359

AMA Style

Pirnay J-P, Selhorst P, Hong SL, Cochez C, Potter B, Maes P, Petrillo M, Dudas G, Claes V, Van der Beken Y, Verbeken G, Degueldre J, Dellicour S, Cuypers L, T’Sas F, Van den Eede G, Verhasselt B, Weuts W, Smets C, Mertens J, Geeraerts P, Ariën KK, André E, Neirinckx P, Soentjens P, Baele G. Variant Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 Genomes from Belgian Military Personnel Engaged in Overseas Missions and Operations. Viruses. 2021; 13(7):1359. https://doi.org/10.3390/v13071359

Chicago/Turabian Style

Pirnay, Jean-Paul, Philippe Selhorst, Samuel L. Hong, Christel Cochez, Barney Potter, Piet Maes, Mauro Petrillo, Gytis Dudas, Vincent Claes, Yolien Van der Beken, Gilbert Verbeken, Julie Degueldre, Simon Dellicour, Lize Cuypers, France T’Sas, Guy Van den Eede, Bruno Verhasselt, Wouter Weuts, Cedric Smets, Jan Mertens, Philippe Geeraerts, Kevin K. Ariën, Emmanuel André, Pierre Neirinckx, Patrick Soentjens, and Guy Baele. 2021. "Variant Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 Genomes from Belgian Military Personnel Engaged in Overseas Missions and Operations" Viruses 13, no. 7: 1359. https://doi.org/10.3390/v13071359

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