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Whole-genome sequencing to investigate transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the acute healthcare setting: a systematic review

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-11-03, 08:56 authored by D Hare, K.M. Dembicka, C Brennan, C Campbell, U Sutton-Fitzpatrick, P.J. Stapleton, C.F. De Gascun, COLUM DUNNECOLUM DUNNE

Background: Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) has been used widely to elucidate transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in acute healthcare settings, and to guide infection, prevention,and control (IPC) responses.

Aim: To systematically appraise available literature, published between January 1st, 2020 and June 30th, 2022, describing the implementation of WGS in acute healthcare settings to characterize nosocomial SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

Methods: Searches of the PubMed, Embase, Ovid MEDLINE, EBSCO MEDLINE, and Cochrane Library databases identified studies in English reporting the use of WGS to investigate SARS-CoV-2 transmission in acute healthcare environments. Publications involved data collected up to December 31st, 2021, and findings were reported in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses statement.


In all, 3088 non-duplicate records were retrieved; 97 met inclusion criteria, involving 62 outbreak analyses and 35 genomic surveillance studies. No publications from low-income countries were identified. In 87/97 (90%), WGS supported hypotheses for nosocomial transmission, while in 46 out of 97 (47%) suspected transmission events were excluded. An IPC intervention was attributed to the use of WGS in 18 out of 97 (18%); however, only three (3%) studies reported turnaround times ≤7 days facilitating near real-time IPC action, and none reported an impact on the incidence of nosocomial COVID-19 attributable to WGS.


WGS can elucidate transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in acute healthcare settings to enhance epidemiological investigations. However, evidence was not identified to support sequencing as an intervention to reduce the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 in hospital or to alter the trajectory of active outbreaks.



Journal of Hospital Infection, 2023, 140, pp. 139-155



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