Investigation of a superspreading event preceding the largest meat processing plant-related SARS-Coronavirus 2 outbreak in Germany

30 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2020

See all articles by Thomas Guenther

Thomas Guenther

Heinrich Pette Institute

Manja Czech-Sioli

University of Hamburg - University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf

Daniela Indenbirken

Heinrich Pette Institute

Alexis Robitailles

Heinrich Pette Institute

Peter Tenhaken

Health Office - Osnabrück

Martin Exner

University of Bonn

Matthias Ottinger

Omikron Systems GmbH

Nicole Fischer

University of Hamburg - Institute of Microbiology, Virology and Hygiene

Adam Grundhoff

Heinrich Pette Institute

Melanie Brinkmann

Technology University of Braunschweig - Institute of Genetics

Date Written: July 17, 2020

Abstract

Background
Here, we describe a multifactorial investigation of the events of a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in the largest meat processing complex in Germany.

Methods
Timing of infection events, spatial relationship between workers in the meat processing plant, climate and ventilation conditions, sharing of living quarters and transport, and full viral genome sequences recovered from PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases were analyzed.

Findings
Transmissions occurred in a confined area of a meat processing plant in which air is constantly re-circulated and cooled to 10°C. Index case B1 transmitted the virus to co-workers in a radius of more than 8 meters during work-shifts on 3 consecutive days. Assessment of viral sequences shows that all cases share a set of eight single nucleotide mutations representing a novel sub-branch in the SARS-CoV-2 C20 clade. We identified the same set of mutations in samples collected in the time period between the initial infection cluster and a subsequent outbreak in the following month, with the largest number of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 positive cases in a meat processing facility reported so far.

Interpretation
Our results indicate climate conditions and airflow as factors that can promote efficient spread of SARS-CoV-2 via distances of more than 8 meters and provide insights into possible requirements for pandemic mitigation strategies in industrial workplace settings.

Funding
None.

Note: Funding: None.

Conflict of Interest: We declare no competing interests.

Ethical Approval: Clinical samples from the University Medical Center Hamburg Eppendorf were processed according to protocols approved by Ethics Committee of the City of Hamburg (PV7306; WF026/13). The study and all measures taken to comply with current data protection and ethics regulations were registered with the ethics committee of the University of Bonn, North Rhine Westphalia, Germany, and agreement for publication within the framework of disease control, outbreak management and quality assurance was requested. The committee issued a statement of no objection to publish the study under reference number 337/20.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, meat processing plant, amplicon seqeuncing, superspreading event, variant sequencing

Suggested Citation

Guenther, Thomas and Czech-Sioli, Manja and Indenbirken, Daniela and Robitailles, Alexis and Tenhaken, Peter and Exner, Martin and Ottinger, Matthias and Fischer, Nicole and Grundhoff, Adam and Brinkmann, Melanie, Investigation of a superspreading event preceding the largest meat processing plant-related SARS-Coronavirus 2 outbreak in Germany (July 17, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3654517 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3654517

Thomas Guenther

Heinrich Pette Institute ( email )

Martinistrasse 52
Hamburg, 20251
Germany

Manja Czech-Sioli

University of Hamburg - University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf ( email )

Martinistrasse 52
Hamburg, D - 20246
Germany

Daniela Indenbirken

Heinrich Pette Institute ( email )

Martinistrasse 52
Hamburg, 20251
Germany

Alexis Robitailles

Heinrich Pette Institute

Martinistrasse 52
Hamburg, 20251
Germany

Peter Tenhaken

Health Office - Osnabrück

Germany

Martin Exner

University of Bonn

Regina-Pacis-Weg 3
Postfach 2220
Bonn, D-53012
Germany

Matthias Ottinger

Omikron Systems GmbH

Germany

Nicole Fischer (Contact Author)

University of Hamburg - Institute of Microbiology, Virology and Hygiene ( email )

Germany

Adam Grundhoff

Heinrich Pette Institute ( email )

Martinistrasse 52
Hamburg, 20251
Germany

Melanie Brinkmann

Technology University of Braunschweig - Institute of Genetics ( email )

Germany

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