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1.
Build Environ ; 221: 109323, 2022 Aug 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1906829

ABSTRACT

The phenomenon of vertical transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in high-rise residential buildings (HRRBs) is unique in our densely populated cosmopolitan city. The compulsory testing of a whole building under the scheme of restriction-testing declaration (RTD) during the fourth wave (non-Omicron variant) and fifth wave (mostly Omicron variant) of COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong allowed us to study the prevalence of this phenomenon, which may represent a form of airborne transmission. From 23 January 2021 to 24 March 2022, 25,450 (5.8%) of 436,397 residents from 223 (63.0%) of 354 HRRBs under RTD were test-positive for SARS-CoV-2. Using the clustering of cases among vertically aligned flats with shared drainage stack and lightwell as a surrogate marker of vertical transmission, the number of vertically aligned flats with positive COVID-19 cases was significantly higher in the fifth wave compared with the fourth wave (14.2%, 6471/45,531 vs 0.24%, 3/1272; p < 0.001; or 2212 vs 1 per-million-flats; p < 0.001). Excluding 22,801 residents from 38 HRRBs who were tested negative outside the 12-week periods selected in fourth and fifth waves, the positive rate among residents was significantly higher among residents during the fifth wave than the fourth wave (6.5%, 25,434/389,700 vs 0.07%, 16/23,896; p < 0.001). Within the flats with COVID-19 cases, the proportion of vertically aligned flats was also significantly higher in the fifth wave than in the fourth wave (95.6%, 6471/6766 vs 30.0%, 3/10, p < 0.001). The proportion of HRRBs with COVID-19 cases was significantly higher during the corresponding 12-week period chosen for comparison (78.2%, 219/280 vs 11.1%, 4/36; p < 0.001). Whole-genome phylogenetic analysis of 332 viral genomes showed that Omicron BA.2 was the predominant strain, supporting the high transmissibility of BA.2 by airborne excreta-aerosol route in HRRBs of Hong Kong.

2.
J Virol Methods ; 299: 114333, 2022 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1525873

ABSTRACT

The increasing prevalence of N501Y variants of SARS-CoV-2 has kindled global concern due to their enhanced transmissibility. Genome sequencing is the gold standard method to identify the emerging variants of concern. But it is time-consuming and expensive, limiting the widespread deployment of genome surveillance in some countries. Health authorities surge the development of alternative assay to expand screening capacity with reduced time and cost. In this study, we developed an in-house TaqMan minor groove binder (MGB) probe-based one-step RT-qPCR assay to detect the presence of N501Y mutation in SARS-CoV-2. A total of 168 SARS-CoV-2 positive respiratory specimens were collected to determine diagnostic accuracy of the RT-qPCR assay. As a reference standard, PANGO lineages and the mutation patterns of all samples were characterised by whole-genome sequencing. The analytical sensitivity and the ability of the assay to detect low frequency of N501Y variants were also evaluated. A total of 31 PANGO lineages were identified from 168 SARS-CoV-2 positive cases, in which 34 samples belonged to N501Y variants, including B.1.1.7 (n = 20), B.1.351 (n = 12) and P.3 (n = 2). The N501Y RT-qPCR correctly identified all 34 samples as N501Y-positive and the other 134 samples as wildtype. The limit-of-detection of the assay consistently achieved 1.5 copies/µL on four different qPCR platforms. N501Y mutation was successfully detected at an allele frequency as low as 10 % in a sample with mixed SARS-CoV-2 lineage. The N501Y RT-qPCR is simple and inexpensive (US$1.6 per sample). It enables robust high-throughput screening for surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern harbouring N501Y mutation.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Humans , Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction , Whole Genome Sequencing
3.
Lancet Reg Health West Pac ; 17: 100281, 2021 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1446927

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Global dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern (VOCs) remains a concern. The aim of this study is to describe how mass testing and phylogenetic analysis successfully prevented local transmission of SARS-CoV-2 VOC in a densely populated city with low herd immunity for COVID-19. METHODS: In this descriptive study, we conducted contact tracing, quarantine, and mass testing of the potentially exposed contacts with the index case. Epidemiological investigation and phylogeographic analysis were performed. FINDINGS: Among 11,818 laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 diagnosed till 13th May 2021 in Hong Kong, SARS-CoV-2 VOCs were found in 271 (2.3%) cases. Except for 10 locally acquired secondary cases, all SARS-CoV-2 VOCs were imported or acquired in quarantine hotels. The index case of this SARS-CoV-2 VOC B.1.351 epidemic, an inbound traveler with asymptomatic infection, was diagnosed 9 days after completing 21 days of quarantine. Contact tracing of 163 contacts in household, hotel, and residential building only revealed 1 (0.6%) secondary case. A symptomatic foreign domestic helper (FDH) without apparent epidemiological link but infected by virus with identical genome sequence was subsequently confirmed. Mass testing of 0.34 million FDHs identified two more cases which were phylogenetically linked. A total of 10 secondary cases were identified that were related to two household gatherings. The clinical attack rate of household close contact was significantly higher than non-household exposure during quarantine (7/25, 28% vs 0/2051, 0%; p<0.001). INTERPRETATION: The rising epidemic of SARS-CoV-2 VOC transmission could be successfully controlled by contact tracing, quarantine, and rapid genome sequencing complemented by mass testing. FUNDING: Health and Medical Research Fund Commissioned Research on Control of Infectious Disease (see acknowledgments for full list).

4.
Clin Infect Dis ; 73(6): e1356-e1364, 2021 09 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1412019

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Nosocomial outbreaks with superspreading of coronavirus disease 2019 due to a possible airborne transmission have not been reported. METHODS: Epidemiological analysis, environmental samplings, and whole-genome sequencing (WGS) were performed for a hospital outbreak. RESULTS: A superspreading event that involved 12 patients and 9 healthcare workers (HCWs) occurred within 9 days in 3 of 6 cubicles at an old-fashioned general ward with no air exhaust built within the cubicles. The environmental contamination by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA was significantly higher in air grilles (>2 m from patients' heads and not within reach) than on high-touch clinical surfaces (36.4%, 8 of 22 vs 3.4%, 1 of 29, P = .003). Six (66.7%) of 9 contaminated air exhaust grilles were located outside patient cubicles. The clinical attack rate of patients was significantly higher than of HCWs (15.4%, 12 of 78 exposed patients vs 4.6%, 9 of 195 exposed HCWs, P = .005). Moreover, the clinical attack rate of ward-based HCWs was significantly higher than of nonward-based HCWs (8.1%, 7 of 68 vs 1.8%, 2 of 109, P = .045). The episodes (mean ±â€…standard deviation) of patient-care duty assignment in the cubicles was significantly higher among infected ward-based HCWs than among noninfected ward-based HCWs (6.0 ±â€…2.4 vs 3.0 ±â€…2.9, P = .012) during the outbreak period. The outbreak strains belong to SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.36.27 (GISAID clade GH) with the unique S-T470N mutation on WGS. CONCLUSIONS: This nosocomial point source superspreading event due to possible airborne transmission demonstrates the need for stringent SARS-CoV-2 screening at admission to healthcare facilities and better architectural design of ventilation systems to prevent such outbreaks. Portable high-efficiency particulate filters were installed in each cubicle to improve ventilation before resumption of clinical service.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Cross Infection , Cross Infection/epidemiology , Disease Outbreaks , Health Personnel , Hospitals , Humans , SARS-CoV-2
5.
Clin Infect Dis ; 73(6): e1356-e1364, 2021 09 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1182996

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Nosocomial outbreaks with superspreading of coronavirus disease 2019 due to a possible airborne transmission have not been reported. METHODS: Epidemiological analysis, environmental samplings, and whole-genome sequencing (WGS) were performed for a hospital outbreak. RESULTS: A superspreading event that involved 12 patients and 9 healthcare workers (HCWs) occurred within 9 days in 3 of 6 cubicles at an old-fashioned general ward with no air exhaust built within the cubicles. The environmental contamination by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA was significantly higher in air grilles (>2 m from patients' heads and not within reach) than on high-touch clinical surfaces (36.4%, 8 of 22 vs 3.4%, 1 of 29, P = .003). Six (66.7%) of 9 contaminated air exhaust grilles were located outside patient cubicles. The clinical attack rate of patients was significantly higher than of HCWs (15.4%, 12 of 78 exposed patients vs 4.6%, 9 of 195 exposed HCWs, P = .005). Moreover, the clinical attack rate of ward-based HCWs was significantly higher than of nonward-based HCWs (8.1%, 7 of 68 vs 1.8%, 2 of 109, P = .045). The episodes (mean ±â€…standard deviation) of patient-care duty assignment in the cubicles was significantly higher among infected ward-based HCWs than among noninfected ward-based HCWs (6.0 ±â€…2.4 vs 3.0 ±â€…2.9, P = .012) during the outbreak period. The outbreak strains belong to SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.36.27 (GISAID clade GH) with the unique S-T470N mutation on WGS. CONCLUSIONS: This nosocomial point source superspreading event due to possible airborne transmission demonstrates the need for stringent SARS-CoV-2 screening at admission to healthcare facilities and better architectural design of ventilation systems to prevent such outbreaks. Portable high-efficiency particulate filters were installed in each cubicle to improve ventilation before resumption of clinical service.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Cross Infection , Cross Infection/epidemiology , Disease Outbreaks , Health Personnel , Hospitals , Humans , SARS-CoV-2
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