Comprehensive analyses of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in a public health virology laboratory

Neta S. Zuckerman, Rakefet Pando, Efrat Bucris, Yaron Drori, Yaniv Lustig, Oran Erster, Orna Mor, Ella Mendelson, Michal Mandelboim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


SARS-CoV-2 has become a major global concern as of December 2019, particularly affecting healthcare workers. As person-to-person transmission is airborne, crowded closed spaces have high potential for rapid virus spread, especially early in the pandemic when social distancing and mask wearing were not mandatory. This retrospective study thoroughly investigates a small-scale SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in Israel's central virology laboratory (ICVL) in mid-March 2020, in which six staff members and two related family members were infected. Suspicions regarding infection by contaminated surfaces in ICVL facilities were nullified by SARS-CoV-2 negative real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of work surfaces swipe tests. Complete SARS-CoV-2 genomes were sequenced and mutation analyses showed inclusion of all samples to clades 20B and 20C, possessing the spike mutation D614G. Phylogenetic analysis clarified transmission events, confirming S1 as having infected at least three other staff members and refuting the association of a staff member's infected spouse with the ICVL transmission cluster. Finally, serology tests exhibited IgG and IgA antibodies in all infected individuals and revealed the occurrence of asymptomatic infections in additional staff members. This study demonstrates the advantages of molecular epidemiology in elucidating transmission events and exemplifies the importance of good laboratory practice, distancing and mask wearing in preventing SARS-CoV-2 spread, specifically in healthcare facilities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number854
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • 2019-nCoV
  • COVID-19
  • Infection
  • Next generation sequencing (NGS)
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Staff


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