SARS-CoV-2 and the role of close contact in transmission: a systematic review
Onakpoya IJ., Heneghan CJ., Spencer EA., Brassey J., Plüddemann A., Evans DH., Conly JM., Jefferson T.
Background: SARS-CoV-2 transmission has been reported to be associated with close contact with infected individuals. However, the mechanistic pathway for transmission in close contact settings is unclear. Our objective was to identify, appraise and summarise the evidence from studies assessing the role of close contact in SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Methods: This review is part of an Open Evidence Review on Transmission Dynamics of SARS-CoV-2. We conduct ongoing searches using WHO Covid-19 Database, LitCovid, medRxiv, PubMed and Google Scholar; assess study quality based on the QUADAS-2 criteria and report important findings on an ongoing basis. Results: We included 278 studies: 258 primary studies and 20 systematic reviews. The settings for primary studies were predominantly in home/quarantine facilities (39.5%) and acute care hospitals (12%). The overall reporting quality of the studies was low-to-moderate. There was significant heterogeneity in design and methodology. The frequency of attack rates (PCR testing) varied between 2.1-75%; attack rates were highest in prison and wedding venues, and in households. The frequency of secondary attack rates was 0.3-100% with rates highest in home/quarantine settings. Three studies showed no transmission if the index case was a recurrent infection. Viral culture was performed in four studies of which three found replication-competent virus; culture results were negative where index cases had recurrent infections. Eighteen studies performed genomic sequencing with phylogenetic analysis – the completeness of genomic similarity ranged from 77-100%. Findings from systematic reviews showed that children were significantly less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 and household contact was associated with a significantly increased risk of infection. Conclusions: The evidence from published studies demonstrates that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted in close contact settings. The risk of transmission is greater in household contacts. There was a wide variation in methodology. Standardized guidelines for reporting transmission in close contact settings should be developed.