Multiple pathways of SARS-CoV-2 nosocomial transmission uncovered by integrated genomic and epidemiological analyses during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK

COG-UK Consortium, Samuel Robson*, Kate Fredrika Cook, Sharon Glaysher, Angela Helen Beckett, Salman Goudarzi, Christopher Paul Steven Fearn, Katie Frances Loveson, Scott Elliott, Sarah Wyllie, Allyson Lloyd, Kelly Bicknell, Sally Lumley, Anoop Chauhan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Introduction: Throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic, nosocomial transmission has represented a major concern for healthcare settings and has accounted for many infections diagnosed within hospitals. As restrictions ease and novel variants continue to spread, it is important to uncover the specific pathways by which nosocomial outbreaks occur to understand the most suitable transmission control strategies for the future.

Methods: In this investigation, SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences obtained from 694 healthcare workers and 1,181 patients were analyzed at a large acute NHS hospital in the UK between September 2020 and May 2021. These viral genomic data were combined with epidemiological data to uncover transmission routes within the hospital. We also investigated the effects of the introduction of the highly transmissible variant of concern (VOC), Alpha, over this period, as well as the effects of the national vaccination program on SARS-CoV-2 infection in the hospital.

Results: Our results show that infections of all variants within the hospital increased as community prevalence of Alpha increased, resulting in several outbreaks and super-spreader events. Nosocomial infections were enriched amongst older and more vulnerable patients more likely to be in hospital for longer periods but had no impact on disease severity. Infections appeared to be transmitted most regularly from patient to patient and from patients to HCWs. In contrast, infections from HCWs to patients appeared rare, highlighting the benefits of PPE in infection control. The introduction of the vaccine at this time also reduced infections amongst HCWs by over four-times.

Discussion: These analyses have highlighted the importance of control measures such as regular testing, rapid lateral flow testing alongside polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, isolation of positive patients in the emergency department (where possible), and physical distancing of patient beds on hospital wards to minimize nosocomial transmission of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1066390
Number of pages20
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2023

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • nosocomial infection
  • hospital-acquired infection
  • transmission dynamics
  • alpha variant
  • Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT)
  • whole genome sequencing (WGS)
  • UKRI
  • MRC

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