The contribution of hospital-acquired infections to the COVID-19 epidemic in England in the first half of 2020

Knight, Gwenan ORCID: 0000-0002-7263-9896, Pham, Thi Mui, Stimson, James, Funk, Sebastian, Jafari, Yalda, Pople, Diane ORCID: 0000-0002-5031-0109, Evans, Stephanie ORCID: 0000-0002-2345-5249, Yin, Mo, Brown, Colin, Bhattacharya, Alex
et al (show 7 more authors) (2021) The contribution of hospital-acquired infections to the COVID-19 epidemic in England in the first half of 2020. [Preprint]

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<h4>Background</h4> SARS-CoV-2 spreads in hospitals, but the contribution of these settings to the overall COVID-19 burden at a national level is unknown. <h4>Methods</h4> We used comprehensive national English datasets and simulation modelling to determine the total burden (identified and unidentified) of symptomatic hospital-acquired infections. Those unidentified would either be 1) discharged before symptom onset (“missed”), or 2) have symptom onset 7 days or fewer from admission (“misclassified”). We estimated the contribution of “misclassified” cases and transmission from “missed” symptomatic infections to the English epidemic before 31st July 2020. <h4>Findings</h4> In our dataset of hospitalised COVID-19 patients in acute English Trusts with a recorded symptom onset date (n = 65,028), 7% were classified as hospital-acquired (with symptom onset 8 or more days after admission and before discharge). We estimated that only 30% (range across weeks and 200 simulations: 20-41%) of symptomatic hospital-acquired infections would be identified. Misclassified cases and onward transmission from missed infections could account for 15% (mean, 95% range over 200 simulations: 14·1%-15·8%) of cases currently classified as community-acquired COVID-19. From this, we estimated that 26,600 (25,900 to 27,700) individuals acquired a symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection in an acute Trust in England before 31st July 2020, resulting in 15,900 (15,200-16,400) or 20.1% (19.2%-20.7%) of all identified hospitalised COVID-19 cases. <h4>Conclusions</h4> Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to hospitalised patients likely caused approximately a fifth of identified cases of hospitalised COVID-19 in the “first wave”, but fewer than 1% of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in England. Using symptom onset as a detection method for hospital-acquired SARS-CoV-2 likely misses a substantial proportion (>60%) of hospital-acquired infections. <h4>Funding</h4> National Institute for Health Research, UK Medical Research Council, Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening, UKRI, Wellcome Trust, Singapore National Medical Research Council. <h4>Research in context</h4> <h4>Evidence before this study</h4> We searched PubMed with the terms “((national OR country) AND (contribution OR burden OR estimates) AND (“hospital-acquired” OR “hospital-associated” OR “nosocomial”)) AND Covid-19” for articles published in English up to July 1st 2021. This identified 42 studies, with no studies that had aimed to produce comprehensive national estimates of the contribution of hospital settings to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most studies focused on estimating seroprevalence or levels of infection in healthcare workers only, which were not our focus. Removing the initial national/country terms identified 120 studies, with no country level estimates. Several single hospital setting estimates exist for England and other countries, but the percentage of hospital-associated infections reported relies on identified cases in the absence of universal testing. <h4>Added value of this study</h4> This study provides the first national-level estimates of all symptomatic hospital-acquired infections with SARS-CoV-2 in England up to the 31st July 2020. Using comprehensive data, we calculate how many infections would be unidentified and hence can generate a total burden, impossible from just notification data. Moreover, our burden estimates for onward transmission suggest the contribution of hospitals to the overall infection burden. <h4>Implications of all the available evidence</h4> Large numbers of patients may become infected with SARS-CoV-2 in hospitals though only a small proportion of such infections are identified. Further work is needed to better understand how interventions can reduce such transmission and to better understand the contributions of hospital transmission to mortality.

Item Type: Preprint
Uncontrolled Keywords: ISARIC4C Investigators, CMMID COVID-19 working group
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2021 07:03
Last Modified: 26 May 2022 14:12
DOI: 10.1101/2021.09.02.21262480
Open Access URL: