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The effect of variation of individual infectiousness on SARS-CoV-2 transmission in households


Tsang TK, Huang X, Wang C, Chen S, Yang B, Cauchemez S, Cowling BJ.

Quantifying variation of individual infectiousness is critical to inform disease control. Previous studies reported substantial heterogeneity in transmission of many infectious diseases including SARS-CoV-2. However, those results are difficult to interpret since the number of contacts is rarely considered in such approaches. Here, we analyze data from 17 SARS-CoV-2 household transmission studies conducted in periods dominated by ancestral strains, in which the number of contacts was known. By fitting individual-based household transmission models to these data, accounting for number of contacts and baseline transmission probabilities, the pooled estimate suggests that the 20% most infectious cases have 3.1-fold (95% confidence interval: 2.2- to 4.2-fold) higher infectiousness than average cases, which is consistent with the observed heterogeneity in viral shedding. Household data can inform the estimation of transmission heterogeneity, which is important for epidemic management.

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