Phylogenetic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 in Boston highlights the impact of superspreading events

Science. 2020 Dec 10;eabe3261. doi: 10.1126/science.abe3261. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Analysis of 772 complete SARS-CoV-2 genomes from early in the Boston area epidemic revealed numerous introductions of the virus, a small number of which led to most cases. The data revealed two superspreading events. One, in a skilled nursing facility, led to rapid transmission and significant mortality in this vulnerable population but little broader spread, while other introductions into the facility had little effect. The second, at an international business conference, produced sustained community transmission and was exported, resulting in extensive regional, national, and international spread. The two events also differed significantly in the genetic variation they generated, suggesting varying transmission dynamics in superspreading events. Our results show how genomic epidemiology can help understand the link between individual clusters and wider community spread.