Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Boston Wheeze Party

In an August 25, 2020, preprint article by Lemieux et al. posted on Medrxiv, entitled "Phylogenetic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 in the Boston area highlights the role of recurrent importation and superspreading events", a collaborative group of scientists from the Broad Institute and other institutions analyzed 772 complete SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences to trace the early spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Boston, including possibly at a fateful conference attended by participants from around the worldAmong their findings, the authors
present here an analysis of SARS-CoV-2 genomic epidemiology primarily in the Boston area, which was severely affected early in the US COVID-19 epidemic. Through dense sampling of the early phase of the epidemic we show the frequency of importation events—over 80 independent introductions—and the impact of early superspreading events in driving amplification and community transmission, likely accelerating the transition from containment to mitigation strategies.
This study provides direct evidence that superspreading events may profoundly alter the course of an epidemic and implies that prevention, detection, and mitigation of such events should be a priority for public health efforts.
Rapid sequencing of full genomes and powerful phylogenetic inference methods are proving themselves vital in our emerging understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic.