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Community Transmission and Viral Load Kinetics of SARS-CoV-2 Delta (B.1.617.2)Variant in Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Individuals
46 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2021More...
Background: The SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant is highly transmissible and spreading globally but a detailed understanding of community transmission risks in highly vaccinated populations is lacking.
Methods: Between September 2020 and August 2021, we recruited 510 community contacts of 422 UK COVID-19 cases to a cohort study. A total of 7194 upper respiratory tract (URT) samples were tested from sequential daily sampling of participants for up to 20 days. We analysed transmission risk by vaccination status for 139 contacts exposed to the Delta variant. We compared viral load (VL) trajectories from fully-vaccinated cases of Delta infection (n=19) with unvaccinated Delta (n=10), Alpha (n=39) and pre-Alpha (n=49) infections.
Findings: The household secondary attack rate for fully-vaccinated contacts exposed to Delta was 19.7% (95%CI:11.6-31.3%), compared with 35.7% (95%CI:16.4-61.2%) in the unvaccinated. One third of infections in Delta-exposed contacts arose from fully-vaccinated index cases and one half of infected contacts were also fully-vaccinated. Seven transmission events between fully vaccinated index-contact pairs occurred. Genomic analysis confirmed transmission pathways between fully-vaccinated individuals within three households. Peak VL was similar in vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals with Delta variant infection but vaccinated Delta cases saw significantly faster VL decline than unvaccinated Alpha or Delta cases. Within infected individuals, faster VL growth was correlated with higher peak VL and slower decline.
Interpretation: Although vaccination reduces the risk of Delta infection and causes some changes to viral kinetics, fully-vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak URT VL similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts.
Funding: National Institute for Health Research (Award:NIHR200927)
Declaration of Interest: The authors declare no relevant conflicts.
Ethical Approval: The study was approved by the Health Research Authority (Research Ethics Committee reference: 20/NW/0231).
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2, transmission, viral kinetics, breakthrough infection, vaccination
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