Emergence and Spread of SARS-CoV-2 Lineages B.1.1.7 and P.1 in Italy.

10 Jun 2021

Italy's second wave of SARS-CoV-2 has hit hard, with more than three million cases and over 100,000 deaths, representing an almost ten-fold increase in the numbers reported by August 2020. Herein, we present an analysis of 6515 SARS-CoV-2 sequences sampled in Italy between 29 January 2020 and 1 March 2021 and show how different lineages emerged multiple times independently despite lockdown restrictions. Virus lineage B.1.177 became the dominant variant in November 2020, when cases peaked at 40,000 a day, but since January 2021 this is being replaced by the B.1.1.7 'variant of concern'. In addition, we report a sudden increase in another documented variant of concern-lineage P.1-from December 2020 onwards, most likely caused by a single introduction into Italy. We again highlight how international importations drive the emergence of new lineages and that genome sequencing should remain a top priority for ongoing surveillance in Italy.