Analysis of Genomic Characteristics and Transmission Routes of Patients With Confirmed SARS-CoV-2 in Southern California During the Early Stage of the US COVID-19 Pandemic.JAMA Netw Open. 2020 10 01; 3(10):e2024191.JN
In late December 2019, an outbreak of a novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) emerged in Wuhan, China. Data on the routes of transmission to Los Angeles, California, the US West Coast epicenter for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and subsequent community spread are limited.
To determine the transmission routes of SARS-CoV-2 to Southern California and elucidate local community spread within the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This case series included 192 consecutive patients with reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results positive for SARS-CoV-2 who were evaluated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, from March 22 to April 15, 2020. Data analysis was performed from April to May 2020.
Main Outcomes and Measures
SARS-CoV-2 viral genomes were sequenced. Los Angeles isolates were compared with genomes from global subsampling and from New York, New York; Washington state; and China to determine potential sources of viral dissemination. Demographic data and outcomes were collected.
The cohort included 192 patients (median [interquartile range] age, 59.5 [43-75] years; 110 [57.3%] men). The genetic characterization of SARS-CoV-2 isolates in the Los Angeles population pinpointed community transmission of 13 patients within a 3.81 km2 radius. Variation landscapes of this case series also revealed a cluster of 10 patients that contained 5 residents at a skilled nursing facility, 1 resident of a nearby skilled nursing facility, 3 health care workers, and a family member of a resident of one of the skilled nursing facilities. Person-to-person transmission was detected in a cluster of 5 patients who shared the same single-nucleotide variation in their SARS-CoV-2 genomes. High viral genomic diversity was identified: 20 Los Angeles isolates (15.0%) resembled SARS-CoV-2 genomes from Asia, while 109 Los Angeles isolates (82.0%) were similar to isolates originating from Europe. Analysis of other common respiratory viral pathogens did not reveal coinfection in the cohort.
Conclusions and Relevance
These findings highlight the precision of detecting person-to-person transmission and accurate contact tracing directly through SARS-CoV-2 genome isolation and sequencing. Development and application of phylogenetic analyses from the Los Angeles population established connections between COVID-19 clusters locally and throughout the US.