Clinical and genomic signatures of SARS-CoV-2 Delta breakthrough infections in New York

Ralf Duerr, Dacia Dimartino, Christian Marier, Paul Zappile, Samuel Levine, Fritz Francois, Eduardo Iturrate, Guiqing Wang, Meike Dittmann, Jennifer Lighter, Brian Elbel, Andrea B. Troxel, Keith S. Goldfeld, Adriana Heguy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In 2021, Delta became the predominant SARS-CoV-2 variant worldwide. While vaccines have effectively prevented COVID-19 hospitalization and death, vaccine breakthrough infections increasingly occurred. The precise role of clinical and genomic determinants in Delta infections is not known, and whether they contributed to increased rates of breakthrough infections compared to unvaccinated controls. Methods: We studied SARS-CoV-2 variant distribution, dynamics, and adaptive selection over time in relation to vaccine status, phylogenetic relatedness of viruses, full genome mutation profiles, and associated clinical and demographic parameters. Findings: We show a steep and near-complete replacement of circulating variants with Delta between May and August 2021 in metropolitan New York. We observed an increase of the Delta sublineage AY.25 (14% in vaccinated, 7% in unvaccinated), its spike mutation S112L, and AY.44 (8% in vaccinated, 2% in unvaccinated) with its nsp12 mutation F192V in breakthroughs. Delta infections were associated with younger age and lower hospitalization rates than Alpha. Delta breakthrough infections increased significantly with time since vaccination, and, after adjusting for confounders, they rose at similar rates as in unvaccinated individuals. Interpretation: We observed a modest adaptation of Delta genomes in breakthrough infections in New York, suggesting an improved genomic framework to support Delta's epidemic growth in times of waning vaccine protection despite limited impact on vaccine escape. Funding: The study was supported by NYU institutional funds. The NYULH Genome Technology Center is partially supported by the Cancer Center Support Grant P30CA016087 at the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104141
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Genomic signatures of vaccine breakthrough
  • Network analysis of clinical variables
  • SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern (VOC) delta
  • Selective adaptation
  • Spike S112L and nsp12 F192V
  • Time since vaccination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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