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- Vítor Borges
- Joana Isidro
- Filipe Macedo
- José Neves
- Luís Silva
- Mário Paiva
- José Barata
- Judite Catarino
- Liliana Ciobanu
- Sílvia Duarte
- Luís Vieira
- Raquel Guiomar
- João Paulo Gomes
Dissemination of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in healthcare institutions affects both patients and health-care workers (HCW), as well as the institutional capacity to provide essential health services.
We conducted an investigation of a cluster of SARS-CoV-2 positive cases detected in a “non-COVID-19” hospital ward during Summer 2020. The magnitude of the nosocomial outbreak was disclosed by massive testing, challenging the retrospective reconstruction of the introduction and transmission events. An in-depth contact tracing investigation was carried out to identify the contacts network during the 15-day period before the screening. In parallel, positive SARS-CoV-2 RNA samples were subjected to virus genome sequencing.
Of the 245 tested individuals, 48 (21 patients and 27 HCWs) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. HCWs were mostly asymptomatic, but the mortality among the vulnerable patient group reached 57.1% (12/21). Phylogenetic reconstruction revealed that all cases were part of the same transmission chain, thus confirming a single origin behind this nosocomial outbreak. By combining vast epidemiological and genomic data, including analysis of emerging minor variants, we unveiled a scenario of silent SARS-CoV-2 dissemination within the hospital ward, mostly driven by the close contact within the HCWs group and between HCWs and patients. This investigation triggered enhanced prevention and control measures, leading to a more timely detection and containment of novel nosocomial outbreaks.
The present study shows the benefit of combining genomic and epidemiological data for the investigation of complex nosocomial outbreaks, and provides valuable data to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in healthcare facilities.
SARS-CoV-2 nosocomial outbreaks are of utmost public health concern. Here, we performed an in-depth investigation of a high-fatality rate nosocomial outbreak by combining vast genomic and epidemiological data, providing valuable information to understand cryptic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within healthcare institutions.