Background: Viral sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 has been used for outbreak investigation, but there is limited evidence supporting routine use for infection prevention and control (IPC) within hospital settings.
Methods: We conducted a prospective non-randomised trial of sequencing at 14 acute UK hospital trusts. Sites each had a 4-week baseline data collection period, followed by intervention periods comprising 8 weeks of ‘rapid’ (
Results: A total of 2170 HOCI cases were recorded from October 2020 to April 2021, corresponding to a period of extreme strain on the health service, with sequence reports returned for 650/1320 (49.2%) during intervention phases. We did not detect a statistically significant change in weekly incidence of HAIs in longer-turnaround (incidence rate ratio 1.60, 95% CI 0.85–3.01; p=0.14) or rapid (0.85, 0.48–1.50; p=0.54) intervention phases compared to baseline phase. However, IPC practice was changed in 7.8 and 7.4% of all HOCI cases in rapid and longer-turnaround phases, respectively, and 17.2 and 11.6% of cases where the report was returned. In a ‘per-protocol’ sensitivity analysis, there was an impact on IPC actions in 20.7% of HOCI cases when the SRT report was returned within 5 days. Capacity to respond effectively to insights from sequencing was breached in most sites by the volume of cases and limited resources.
Conclusions: While we did not demonstrate a direct impact of sequencing on the incidence of nosocomial transmission, our results suggest that sequencing can inform IPC response to HOCIs, particularly when returned within 5 days.