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Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21266969


Like other congregate living settings, military basic training has been subject to outbreaks of COVID-19. We sought to identify improved strategies for preventing outbreaks in this setting using an agent-based model of a hypothetical cohort of trainees on a U.S. Army post. Our analysis revealed unique aspects of basic training that require customized approaches to outbreak prevention, which draws attention to the possibility that customized approaches may be necessary in other settings, too. In particular, we showed that introductions by trainers and support staff may be a major vulnerability, given that those individuals remain at risk of community exposure throughout the training period. We also found that increased testing of trainees upon arrival could actually increase the risk of outbreaks, given the potential for false-positive test results to lead to susceptible individuals becoming infected in group isolation and seeding outbreaks in training units upon release. Until an effective transmission-blocking vaccine is adopted at high coverage by individuals involved with basic training, need will persist for non-pharmaceutical interventions to prevent outbreaks in military basic training. Ongoing uncertainties about virus variants and breakthrough infections necessitate continued vigilance in this setting, even as vaccination coverage increases. Significance StatementCOVID-19 has presented enormous disruptions to society. Militaries are not immune to these disruptions, with outbreaks in those settings posing threats to national security. We present a simulation model of COVID-19 outbreaks in a U.S. Army basic training setting to inform improved approaches to prevention there. Counterintuitively, we found that outbreak risk is driven more by virus introductions from trainers than the large number of trainees, and that outbreak risk is highly sensitive to false-positive results during entry testing. These findings suggest practical ways to improve prevention of COVID-19 outbreaks in basic training and, as a result, maintain the flow of new soldiers into the military. This work highlights the need for bespoke modeling to inform prevention in diverse institutional settings.

Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21253460


Serological assessment of SARS-CoV-2 specific responses are an essential tool for determining the prevalence of past SARS-CoV-2 infections in the population especially when testing occurs after symptoms have developed and limited contact tracing is in place. The goal of our study was to test a new 10-plex electro-chemiluminescence-based assay to measure IgM and IgG responses to the spike proteins from multiple human coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2, assess the epitope specificity of the SARS-CoV-2 antibody response against full-length spike protein, receptor-binding domain and N-terminal domain of the spike protein, and the nucleocapsid protein. We carried out the assay on samples collected from three sample groups: subjects diagnosed with COVID-19 from the U.S. Army hospital at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea; healthcare administrators from the same hospital but with no reported diagnosis of COVID-19; and pre-pandemic samples. We found that the new CoV-specific multiplex assay was highly sensitive allowing plasma samples to be diluted 1:30,000 with a robust signal. The reactivity of IgG responses to SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein and IgM responses to SARS-CoV-2 spike protein could distinguish COVID-19 samples from non-COVID-19 and pre-pandemic samples. The data from the three sample groups also revealed a unique pattern of cross-reactivity between SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1, MERS-CoV, and seasonal coronaviruses HKU1 and OC43. Our findings show that the CoV-2 IgM response is highly specific while the CoV-2 IgG response is more cross-reactive across a range of human CoVs and also showed that IgM and IgG responses show distinct patterns of epitope specificity. In summary, this multiplex assay was able to distinguish samples by COVID-19 status and characterize distinct trends in terms of cross-reactivity and fine-specificity in antibody responses, underscoring its potential value in diagnostic or serosurveillance efforts.