Taiwan experienced two waves of imported infections with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This study aimed at investigating the genomic variation of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in Taiwan and compared their evolutionary trajectories with the global strains. We performed culture and full-genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 strains followed by phylogenetic analysis. A 382-nucleotides deletion in open reading frame 8 (ORF8) was found in a Taiwanese strain isolated from a patient on February 4, 2020 who had a travel history to Wuhan. Patients in the first wave also included several sporadic, local transmission cases. Genomes of 5 strains sequenced from clustered infections were classified into a new clade with ORF1ab-V378I mutation, in addition to 3 dominant clades ORF8-L84S, ORF3a-G251V and S-D614G. This highlighted clade also included some strains isolated from patients who had a travel history to Turkey and Iran. The second wave mostly resulted from patients who had a travel history to Europe and Americas. All Taiwanese viruses were classified into various clades. Genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in Taiwan revealed a new ORF8-deletion mutant and a virus clade that may be associated with infections in the Middle East, which contributed to a better understanding of the global SARS-CoV-2 transmission dynamics.
Keywords: COVID-19; ORF8 deletion; Phylogeny; SARS-CoV-2; genome sequencing.