Healthcare workers & SARS-CoV-2 infection in India: A case-control investigation in the time of COVID-19.Indian J Med Res. 2020 May; 151(5):459-467.IJ
Background & objectives
Healthcare workers (HCWs) are at an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19. While intense occupational exposure associated with aerosol-generating procedures underlines the necessity of using personal protective equipment (PPE) by HCWs, high-transmission efficiency of the causative agent [severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)] could also lead to infections beyond such settings. Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a repurposed antimalarial drug, was empirically recommended as prophylaxis by the National COVID-19 Task Force in India to cover such added risk. Against this background, the current investigation was carried out to identify the factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection among HCWs in the country.
A case-control design was adopted and participants were randomly drawn from the countrywide COVID-19 testing data portal maintained by the ICMR. The test results and contact details of HCWs, diagnosed as positive (cases) or negative (controls) for SARS-CoV-2 using real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), were available from this database. A 20-item brief-questionnaire elicited information on place of work, procedures conducted and use of PPE.
Compared to controls, cases were slightly older (34.7 vs. 33.5 yr) and had more males (58 vs. 50%). In multivariate analyses, HCWs performing endotracheal intubation had higher odds of being SARS-CoV-2 infected [adjusted odds ratio (AOR): 4.33, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.16-16.07]. Consumption of four or more maintenance doses of HCQ was associated with a significant decline in the odds of getting infected (AOR: 0.44; 95% CI: 0.22-0.88); a dose-response relationship existed between frequency of exposure to HCQ and such reductions (χ for trend=48.88; P <0.001). In addition, the use of PPE was independently associated with the reduction in odds of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2.
Interpretations & conclusions
Until results of clinical trials for HCQ prophylaxis become available, this study provides actionable information for policymakers to protect HCWs at the forefront of COVID-19 response. The public health message of sustained intake of HCQ prophylaxis as well as appropriate PPE use need to be considered in conjunction with risk homoeostasis operating at individual levels.