Methods: We conducted a prospective non-randomised trial of sequencing at 14 acute UK hospital trusts. Sites each had a 4-week baseline data-collection period, followed by intervention periods comprising 8 weeks of 'rapid' (<48h) and 4 weeks of 'longer-turnaround' (5-10 day) sequencing using a sequence reporting tool (SRT). Data were collected on all hospital onset COVID-19 infections (HOCIs; detected ≥48h from admission). The impact of the sequencing intervention on IPC knowledge and actions, and on incidence of probable/definite hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) was evaluated.
Results: A total of 2170 HOCI cases were recorded from October 2020-April 2021, corresponding to a period of extreme strain on the health service, with sequence reports returned for 650/1320 (49.2%) during intervention phases. We did not detect a statistically significant change in weekly incidence of HAIs in longer-turnaround (incidence rate ratio 1.60, 95%CI 0.85-3.01; P=0.14) or rapid (0.85, 0.48-1.50; P=0.54) intervention phases compared to baseline phase. However, IPC practice was changed in 7.8% and 7.4% of all HOCI cases in rapid and longer-turnaround phases, respectively, and 17.2% and 11.6% of cases where the report was returned. In a 'per-protocol' sensitivity analysis there was an impact on IPC actions in 20.7% of HOCI cases when the SRT report was returned within 5 days. Capacity to respond effectively to insights from sequencing was breached in most sites by the volume of cases and limited resources.
Conclusion: While we did not demonstrate a direct impact of sequencing on the incidence of nosocomial transmission, our results suggest that sequencing can inform IPC response to HOCIs, particularly when returned within 5 days.
Funding: COG-UK is supported by funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) part of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) [grant code: MC_PC_19027], and Genome Research Limited, operating as the Wellcome Sanger Institute.
Clinical trial number: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04405934.