Document Type


Journal Title

Genome Biology and Evolution

Publication Date





Developing a timely and effective response to emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) is of paramount public health importance. Global health surveillance does not rely on genomic data alone to identify concerning variants when they emerge. Instead, methods that utilize genomic data to estimate the epidemiological dynamics of emerging lineages have the potential to serve as an early warning system. However, these methods assume that genomic data are uniformly reported across circulating lineages. In this study, we analyze differences in reporting delays among SARS-CoV-2 VOCs as a plausible explanation for the timing of the global response to the former VOC Mu. Mu likely emerged in South America in mid-2020, where its circulation was largely confined. In this study, we demonstrate that Mu was designated as a VOC ∼1 year after it emerged and find that the reporting of genomic data for Mu differed significantly than that of other VOCs within countries, states, and individual laboratories. Our findings suggest that nonsystematic biases in the reporting of genomic data may have delayed the global response to Mu. Until they are resolved, the surveillance gaps that affected the global response to Mu could impede the rapid and accurate assessment of future emerging variants.

MeSH Headings

Humans, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, Bias, Genomics



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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