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1.
Biochem J ; 479(8): 901-920, 2022 04 29.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1774010

ABSTRACT

Diagnostic testing continues to be an integral component of the strategy to contain the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) global pandemic, the causative agent of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The SARS-CoV-2 genome encodes the 3C-like protease (3CLpro) which is essential for coronavirus replication. This study adapts an in vitro colorimetric gold nanoparticle (AuNP) based protease assay to specifically detect the activity of SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro as a purified recombinant protein and as a cellular protein exogenously expressed in HEK293T human cells. We also demonstrate that the specific sensitivity of the assay for SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro can be improved by use of an optimised peptide substrate and through hybrid dimerisation with inactive 3CLpro mutant monomers. These findings highlight the potential for further development of the AuNP protease assay to detect SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro activity as a novel, accessible and cost-effective diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2 infection at the point-of-care. Importantly, this versatile assay could also be easily adapted to detect specific protease activity associated with other viruses or diseases conditions.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Metal Nanoparticles , Antiviral Agents , COVID-19/diagnosis , Colorimetry , Coronavirus 3C Proteases , Gold , HEK293 Cells , Humans , Peptide Hydrolases , Protease Inhibitors , SARS-CoV-2
2.
EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-323827

ABSTRACT

Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 without symptoms is well described, and may be mitigated by mass testing. Nonetheless, the optimal implementation and quantitative real-world impact of this approach remain unclear. During a period of rising SARS-CoV-2 prevalence, students at the University of Cambridge were enrolled in a voluntary programme of weekly PCR-based asymptomatic screening. Swab pooling by household reduced the total testing capacity required by five-fold, without affecting laboratory workflows or compromising test sensitivity. Participation remained >75% throughout the study period. 299/671 (45%) of students diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 were either identified or pre-emptively quarantined because of the screening programme. After a negative screening test, the risk of developing COVID-19 over the following 7 days was decreased by 51%. Modelling transmission using parameters from our study suggests a reduction in R0 of up to 31% attributable to weekly screening. We therefore demonstrate the feasibility and efficacy of regular, voluntary mass testing for COVID-19.

3.
EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-304909

ABSTRACT

Understanding the drivers for spread of SARS-CoV-2 in higher education settings is important to limit transmission between students, and onward spread into at-risk populations. In this study, we prospectively sequenced 482 SARS-CoV-2 isolates derived from asymptomatic student screening and symptomatic testing of students and staff at the University of Cambridge from 5 October to 6 December 2020. We performed a detailed phylogenetic comparison with 972 isolates from the surrounding community, complemented with epidemiological and contact tracing data, to determine transmission dynamics. After a limited number of viral introductions into the university, the majority of student cases were linked to a single genetic cluster, likely dispersed across the university following social gatherings at a venue outside the university. We identified considerable onward transmission associated with student accommodation and courses;this was effectively contained using local infection control measures and dramatically reduced following a national lockdown. We observed that transmission clusters were largely segregated within the university or within the community. This study highlights key determinants of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and effective interventions in a higher education setting that will inform public health policy during pandemics.

4.
Nat Commun ; 13(1): 751, 2022 02 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1684022

ABSTRACT

Understanding SARS-CoV-2 transmission in higher education settings is important to limit spread between students, and into at-risk populations. In this study, we sequenced 482 SARS-CoV-2 isolates from the University of Cambridge from 5 October to 6 December 2020. We perform a detailed phylogenetic comparison with 972 isolates from the surrounding community, complemented with epidemiological and contact tracing data, to determine transmission dynamics. We observe limited viral introductions into the university; the majority of student cases were linked to a single genetic cluster, likely following social gatherings at a venue outside the university. We identify considerable onward transmission associated with student accommodation and courses; this was effectively contained using local infection control measures and following a national lockdown. Transmission clusters were largely segregated within the university or the community. Our study highlights key determinants of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and effective interventions in a higher education setting that will inform public health policy during pandemics.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/transmission , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Universities , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/virology , Contact Tracing , Genome, Viral/genetics , Genomics , Humans , Phylogeny , RNA, Viral/genetics , Risk Factors , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Students , United Kingdom/epidemiology , Universities/statistics & numerical data
5.
Elife ; 92020 06 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-607959

ABSTRACT

Previously, we showed that 3% (31/1032)of asymptomatic healthcare workers (HCWs) from a large teaching hospital in Cambridge, UK, tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in April 2020. About 15% (26/169) HCWs with symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (Rivett et al., 2020). Here, we show that the proportion of both asymptomatic and symptomatic HCWs testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 rapidly declined to near-zero between 25th April and 24th May 2020, corresponding to a decline in patient admissions with COVID-19 during the ongoing UK 'lockdown'. These data demonstrate how infection prevention and control measures including staff testing may help prevent hospitals from becoming independent 'hubs' of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and illustrate how, with appropriate precautions, organizations in other sectors may be able to resume on-site work safely.


Subject(s)
Clinical Laboratory Techniques/statistics & numerical data , Coronavirus Infections/transmission , Health Personnel , Mass Screening/statistics & numerical data , Occupational Diseases/prevention & control , Pandemics , Pneumonia, Viral/transmission , Adult , Asymptomatic Diseases , Betacoronavirus/genetics , Betacoronavirus/isolation & purification , COVID-19 , COVID-19 Testing , Community-Acquired Infections/transmission , Contact Tracing , Coronavirus Infections/diagnosis , Coronavirus Infections/epidemiology , Coronavirus Infections/prevention & control , Disease Transmission, Infectious/prevention & control , England/epidemiology , Family Characteristics , Female , Hospital Units , Hospitals, Teaching/organization & administration , Hospitals, Teaching/statistics & numerical data , Hospitals, University/organization & administration , Hospitals, University/statistics & numerical data , Humans , Infection Control , Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional/statistics & numerical data , Male , Mass Screening/organization & administration , Middle Aged , Nasopharynx/virology , Occupational Diseases/epidemiology , Pandemics/prevention & control , Patient Admission/statistics & numerical data , Pneumonia, Viral/diagnosis , Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology , Pneumonia, Viral/prevention & control , Prevalence , Program Evaluation , Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction , SARS-CoV-2 , Symptom Assessment
6.
Elife ; 92020 05 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-236326

ABSTRACT

Significant differences exist in the availability of healthcare worker (HCW) SARS-CoV-2 testing between countries, and existing programmes focus on screening symptomatic rather than asymptomatic staff. Over a 3 week period (April 2020), 1032 asymptomatic HCWs were screened for SARS-CoV-2 in a large UK teaching hospital. Symptomatic staff and symptomatic household contacts were additionally tested. Real-time RT-PCR was used to detect viral RNA from a throat+nose self-swab. 3% of HCWs in the asymptomatic screening group tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. 17/30 (57%) were truly asymptomatic/pauci-symptomatic. 12/30 (40%) had experienced symptoms compatible with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)>7 days prior to testing, most self-isolating, returning well. Clusters of HCW infection were discovered on two independent wards. Viral genome sequencing showed that the majority of HCWs had the dominant lineage B∙1. Our data demonstrates the utility of comprehensive screening of HCWs with minimal or no symptoms. This approach will be critical for protecting patients and hospital staff.


Patients admitted to NHS hospitals are now routinely screened for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and isolated from other patients if necessary. Yet healthcare workers, including frontline patient-facing staff such as doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, are only tested and excluded from work if they develop symptoms of the illness. However, there is emerging evidence that many people infected with SARS-CoV-2 never develop significant symptoms: these people will therefore be missed by 'symptomatic-only' testing. There is also important data showing that around half of all transmissions of SARS-CoV-2 happen before the infected individual even develops symptoms. This means that much broader testing programs are required to spot people when they are most infectious. Rivett, Sridhar, Sparkes, Routledge et al. set out to determine what proportion of healthcare workers was infected with SARS-CoV-2 while also feeling generally healthy at the time of testing. Over 1,000 staff members at a large UK hospital who felt they were well enough to work, and did not fit the government criteria for COVID-19 infection, were tested. Amongst these, 3% were positive for SARS-CoV-2. On closer questioning, around one in five reported no symptoms, two in five very mild symptoms that they had dismissed as inconsequential, and a further two in five reported COVID-19 symptoms that had stopped more than a week previously. In parallel, healthcare workers with symptoms of COVID-19 (and their household contacts) who were self-isolating were also tested, in order to allow those without the virus to quickly return to work and bolster a stretched workforce. Finally, the rates of infection were examined to probe how the virus could have spread through the hospital and among staff ­ and in particular, to understand whether rates of infection were greater among staff working in areas devoted to COVID-19 patients. Despite wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, healthcare workers in these areas were almost three times more likely to test positive than those working in areas without COVID-19 patients. However, it is not clear whether this genuinely reflects greater rates of patients passing the infection to staff. Staff may give the virus to each other, or even acquire it at home. Overall, this work implies that hospitals need to be vigilant and introduce broad screening programmes across their workforces. It will be vital to establish such approaches before 'lockdown' is fully lifted, so healthcare institutions are prepared for any second peak of infections.


Subject(s)
Asymptomatic Infections , Clinical Laboratory Techniques , Health Personnel , Betacoronavirus/physiology , COVID-19 , COVID-19 Testing , COVID-19 Vaccines , Coronavirus Infections/diagnosis , Coronavirus Infections/epidemiology , Coronavirus Infections/transmission , Female , Humans , Infection Control , Male , Pandemics , Pneumonia, Viral/diagnosis , Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology , Pneumonia, Viral/transmission , Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction , SARS-CoV-2 , United Kingdom/epidemiology
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