Spread of a SARS-CoV-2 variant through Europe in the summer of 2020.

Hodcroft, Emma B; Zuber, Moira; Nadeau, Sarah; Vaughan, Timothy G; Crawford, Katharine H D; Althaus, Christian L; Reichmuth, Martina L; Bowen, John E; Walls, Alexandra C; Corti, Davide; Bloom, Jesse D; Veesler, David; Mateo, David; Hernando, Alberto; Comas, Iñaki; Candelas, Fernando González; Stadler, Tanja; Neher, Richard A (2021). Spread of a SARS-CoV-2 variant through Europe in the summer of 2020. Nature, 595(7869), pp. 707-712. Springer Nature 10.1038/s41586-021-03677-y

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Following its emergence in late 2019, the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)1,2 has been tracked via phylogenetic analysis of viral genome sequences in unprecedented detail3-5. While the virus spread globally in early 2020 before borders closed, intercontinental travel has since been greatly reduced. However, within Europe travel resumed in the summer of 2020. Here we report on a novel SARS-CoV-2 variant, 20E (EU1), that emerged in Spain in early summer, and subsequently spread across Europe. We find no evidence of increased transmissibility, but instead demonstrate how rising incidence in Spain, resumption of travel, and lack of effective screening and containment may explain the variant's success. Despite travel restrictions, we estimate 20E (EU1) was introduced hundreds of times to European countries by summertime travelers, likely undermining local efforts to keep SARS-CoV-2 cases low. Our results demonstrate how a variant can rapidly become dominant even in absence of a substantial transmission advantage in favorable epidemiological settings. Genomic surveillance is critical to understanding how travel can impact SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and thus for informing future containment strategies as travel resumes.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Hodcroft, Emma Britt, Althaus, Christian, Reichmuth, Martina Larissa


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




Springer Nature


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation




Doris Kopp Heim

Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2021 15:10

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:51

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:






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