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Understanding the extent of aerosol-based transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is important for tailoring interventions for control of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Multiple studies have reported the detection of SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid in air samples, but only one study has successfully recovered viable virus, although it is limited by its small sample size.
We aimed to determine the extent of shedding of viable SARS-CoV-2 in respiratory aerosols from COVID-19 patients.
In this observational air sampling study, air samples from airborne-infection isolation rooms (AIIRs) and a community isolation facility (CIF) housing COVID-19 patients were collected using a water vapor condensation method into liquid collection media. Samples were tested for presence of SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), and qRT-PCR-positive samples were tested for viability using viral culture.
Samples from 6 (50%) of the 12 sampling cycles in hospital rooms were positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA, including aerosols ranging from <1 µm to >4 µm in diameter. Of 9 samples from the CIF, 1 was positive via qRT-PCR. Viral RNA concentrations ranged from 179 to 2,738 ORF1ab gene copies per cubic meter of air. Virus cultures were negative after 4 blind passages.
Although SARS-CoV-2 is readily captured in aerosols, virus culture remains challenging despite optimized sampling methodologies to preserve virus viability. Further studies on aerosol-based transmission and control of SARS-CoV-2 are needed.
The risk of environmental contamination by severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in the intensive care unit (ICU) is unclear. We evaluated the extent of environmental contamination in the ICU and correlated this with patient and disease factors, including the impact of different ventilatory modalities.
In this observational study, surface environmental samples collected from ICU patient rooms and common areas were tested for SARS-CoV-2 by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Select samples from the common area were tested by cell culture. Clinical data were collected and correlated to the presence of environmental contamination. Results were compared to historical data from a previous study in general wards.
In total, 200 samples from 20 patient rooms and 75 samples from common areas and the staff pantry were tested. The results showed that 14 rooms had at least 1 site contaminated, with an overall contamination rate of 14% (28 of 200 samples). Environmental contamination was not associated with day of illness, ventilatory mode, aerosol-generating procedures, or viral load. The frequency of environmental contamination was lower in the ICU than in general ward rooms. Eight samples from the common area were positive, though all were negative on cell culture.
Environmental contamination in the ICU was lower than in the general wards. The use of mechanical ventilation or high-flow nasal oxygen was not associated with greater surface contamination, supporting their use and safety from an infection control perspective. Transmission risk via environmental surfaces in the ICUs is likely to be low. Nonetheless, infection control practices should be strictly reinforced, and transmission risk via droplet or airborne spread remains.
We report the utility of whole-genome sequencing (WGS) conducted in a clinically relevant time frame (ie, sufficient for guiding management decision), in managing a Streptococcus pyogenes outbreak, and present a comparison of its performance with emm typing.
A 2,000-bed tertiary-care psychiatric hospital.
Active surveillance was conducted to identify new cases of S. pyogenes. WGS guided targeted epidemiological investigations, and infection control measures were implemented. Single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)–based genome phylogeny, emm typing, and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) were performed. We compared the ability of WGS and emm typing to correctly identify person-to-person transmission and to guide the management of the outbreak.
The study included 204 patients and 152 staff. We identified 35 patients and 2 staff members with S. pyogenes. WGS revealed polyclonal S. pyogenes infections with 3 genetically distinct phylogenetic clusters (C1–C3). Cluster C1 isolates were all emm type 4, sequence type 915 and had pairwise SNP differences of 0–5, which suggested recent person-to-person transmissions. Epidemiological investigation revealed that cluster C1 was mediated by dermal colonization and transmission of S. pyogenes in a male residential ward. Clusters C2 and C3 were genomically diverse, with pairwise SNP differences of 21–45 and 26–58, and emm 11 and mostly emm120, respectively. Clusters C2 and C3, which may have been considered person-to-person transmissions by emm typing, were shown by WGS to be unlikely by integrating pairwise SNP differences with epidemiology.
WGS had higher resolution than emm typing in identifying clusters with recent and ongoing person-to-person transmissions, which allowed implementation of targeted intervention to control the outbreak.