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Estimates of outbreak-specific SARS-CoV-2 epidemiological parameters from genomic data

By Timothy G Vaughan, Jeremie Scire, Sarah Ann Nadeau, Tanja Stadler

Posted 14 Sep 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.12.20193284

We estimate the basic reproductive number and case counts for 15 distinct SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks, distributed across 10 countries and one cruise ship, based solely on phylodynamic analyses of genomic data. Our results indicate that, prior to significant public health interventions, the reproductive numbers for a majority (10) of these outbreaks are similar, with median posterior estimates ranging between 1.4 and 2.8. These estimates provide a view which is complementary to that provided by those based on traditional line listing data. The genomic-based view is arguably less susceptible to biases resulting from differences in testing protocols, testing intensity, and import of cases into the community of interest. In the analyses reported here, the genomic data primarily provides information regarding which samples belong to a particular outbreak. We observe that once these outbreaks are identified, the sampling dates carry the majority of the information regarding the reproductive number. Finally, we provide genome-based estimates of the cumulative case counts for each outbreak, which allow us to speculate on the amount of unreported infections within the populations housing each outbreak. These results indicate that for the majority (7) of the populations studied, the number of recorded cases is much bigger than the estimated cumulative case counts, suggesting the presence of unsequenced pathogen diversity in these populations.

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