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Identification of a super-spreading chain of transmission associated with COVID-19

By Ke Hu, Yang Zhao, Mengmei Wang, Qiqi Zeng, Xiaorui Wang, Ming Wang, Zhishui Zheng, Xiaochen Li, Yunting Zhang, Tao Wang, Shaolin Zeng, Yan Jiang, Dan Liu, Wenzhen Yu, Fang Hu, Hongyu Qin, Jingcan Hao, Jian Yuan, Rui Shang, Meng Jiang, Xi Ding, Binghong Zhang, Bingyin Shi, Chengsheng Zhang

Posted 23 Mar 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.19.20026245

BackgroundSuper-spreading events were associated with the outbreaks of SARS and MERS, but their association with the outbreak of COVID-19 remains unknown. Here, we report a super-spreading transmission chain of SARS-CoV-2 involving an index patient, seven cancer patients, 40 health care workers and four family members. MethodsWe conducted a retrospective study to identify the index patient and the exposed individuals linked to a chain of transmission associated with COVID-19. We collected and analyzed the data on demographic features, exposure history, clinical presentation, laboratory investigation, radiological examination, and disease outcome of these patients. ResultsWe identified the index patient and another presumptive "super-spreader", who initiated and amplified a super-spreading transmission chain associated with COVID-19, respectively. There were 31 female and 21 male patients in this cohort, and the median age was 37 years (range: 22-79 years). Each of them had an exposure history with the index patient or his close contacts. Approximately 87% (45/52) of the patients had fever or other symptoms, 96% (50/52) had abnormal chest CT-scan findings, 86% of the tested patients (39/45) were positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the nasopharyngeal or throat swab specimen, 85% of the tested patients (29/34) were positive for SARS-CoV-2-specific IgM and/or IgG, 15% of the RT-PCR positive patients were tested negative for the specific IgM and/or IgG at the convalescent phase, and 15% of the RT-PCR negative patients were tested positive for the specific IgM and/or IgG. The severe patients experienced a significant decrease in oximetry saturation, lymphocyte, and platelet counts, along with a significant increase in C-reactive protein, D-dimer, and lactate dehydrogenase. All six fatal cases had comorbidities and five of the seven cancer patients (71%) died within 2-20 days of the disease onset. ConclusionsThe super-spreading events were associated with the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan and its impact on disease transmission warrants further investigation. Cancer patients appeared highly vulnerable to COVID-19. The finding that a significant portion of SARS-CoV-2 infected patients were tested negative for the serum specific IgM and IgG at the convalescent phase should be addressed by additional studies.

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