Published on Wed Dec 30 2020

Contact Tracing of COVID-19 in Karnataka, India: Superspreading and Determinants of Infectiousness and Symptomaticity

Gupta, M., Parameswaran, G. G., Sra, M. S., Mohanta, R., Patel, D., Gupta, A., Bansal, B., Mazumder, A., Arora, M., Aggarwal, N., Bhatnagar, T., Akhtar, J., Pandey, P., Ravi, V., Babu, G. R., iCART (India COVID-19 Apex Research Team),

India has experienced the second largest outbreak of COVID-19 globally, yet there is a paucity of studies analysing contact tracing data in the region. Such studies can elucidate essential transmission metrics which can help optimize disease control policies. Due to low symptomaticity and infectivity, interventions aimed at children might have a relatively small impact on reducing transmission. There is some evidence that symptomatic cases are more likely to produce secondary cases. This could potentially cause a snowballing effect on infectiousness and clinical severity across transmission generations.

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Abstract

Brief AbstractWe analysed SARS-CoV-2 surveillance and contact tracing data from Karnataka, India up to 21 July 2020. We estimated metrics of infectiousness and the tendency for superspreading (overdispersion), and evaluated potential determinants of infectiousness and symptomaticity in COVID-19 cases. Among 956 cases confirmed to be forward-traced, 8.7% of index cases had 14.4% of contacts but caused 80% of all secondary cases, suggesting significant heterogeneity in individual-level transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 which could not be explained by the degree of heterogeneity in underlying number of contacts. Secondary attack rate was 3.6% among 16715 close contacts. Transmission was higher when index case was aged >18 years, or was symptomatic (adjusted risk ratio, aRR 3.63), or was lab-confirmed [≥]4 days after symptom onset (aRR 3.01). Probability of symptomatic infection increased with age, and symptomatic infectors were 8.16 times more likely to generate symptomatic secondaries. This could potentially cause a snowballing effect on infectiousness and clinical severity across transmission generations; further studies are suggested to confirm this. Mean serial interval was 5.4 days. Adding backward contact tracing and targeting control measures to curb super-spreading may be prudent. Due to low symptomaticity and infectivity, interventions aimed at children might have a relatively small impact on reducing transmission. Structured AbstractO_ST_ABSBackgroundC_ST_ABSIndia has experienced the second largest outbreak of COVID-19 globally, yet there is a paucity of studies analysing contact tracing data in the region. Such studies can elucidate essential transmission metrics which can help optimize disease control policies. MethodsWe analysed contact tracing data collected under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme from Karnataka, India between 9 March and 21 July 2020. We estimated metrics of disease transmission including the reproduction number (R), overdispersion (k), secondary attack rate (SAR), and serial interval. R and k were jointly estimated using a Bayesian Markov Chain Monte Carlo approach. We evaluated the effect of age and other factors on the risk of transmitting the infection, probability of asymptomatic infection, and mortality due to COVID-19. FindingsUp to 21 July, we found 111 index cases that crossed the super-spreading threshold of [≥]8 secondary cases. R and k were most reliably estimated at R 0.75 (95% CI, 0.62-0.91) and k 0.12 (0.11-0.15) for confirmed traced cases (n=956); and R 0.91 (0.72-1.15) and k 0.22 (0.17-0.27) from the three largest clusters (n=394). Among 956 confirmed traced cases, 8.7% of index cases had 14.4% of contacts but caused 80% of all secondary cases. Among 16715 contacts, overall SAR was 3.6% (3.4-3.9) and symptomatic cases were more infectious than asymptomatic cases (SAR 7.7% vs 2.0%; aRR 3.63 [3.04-4.34]). As compared to infectors aged 19-44 years, children were less infectious (aRR 0.21 [0.07-0.66] for 0-5 years and 0.47 [0.32-0.68] for 6-18 years). Infectors who were confirmed [≥]4 days after symptom onset were associated with higher infectiousness (aRR 3.01 [2.11-4.31]). Probability of symptomatic infection increased with age, and symptomatic infectors were 8.16 (3.29-20.24) times more likely to generate symptomatic secondaries. Serial interval had a mean of 5.4 (4.4-6.4) days with a Weibull distribution. Overall case fatality rate was 2.5% (2.4-2.7) which increased with age. ConclusionWe found significant heterogeneity in the individual-level transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 which could not be explained by the degree of heterogeneity in the underlying number of contacts. To strengthen contact tracing in over-dispersed outbreaks, testing and tracing delays should be minimised, retrospective contact tracing should be considered, and contact tracing performance metrics should be utilised. Targeted measures to reduce potential superspreading events should be implemented. Interventions aimed at children might have a relatively small impact on reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission owing to their low symptomaticity and infectivity. There is some evidence that symptomatic cases produce secondary cases that are more likely to be symptomatic themselves which may potentially cause a snowballing effect on infectiousness and clinical severity across transmission generations; further studies are needed to confirm this finding. FundingGiridhara R Babu is funded by an Intermediate Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance (Clinical and Public Health Research Fellowship); grant number: IA/CPHI/14/1/501499.