Increasing evidence indicates that superspreading plays a dominant role in COVID-19 transmission. Recent estimates suggest that the dispersion parameter k for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is on the order of 0.1, which corresponds to about 10% of cases being the source of 80% of infections. To investigate how overdispersion might affect the outcome of various mitigation strategies, we developed an agent-based model with a social network that allows transmission through contact in three sectors: “close” (a small, unchanging group of mutual contacts as might be found in a household), “regular” (a larger, unchanging group as might be found in a workplace or school), and “random” (drawn from the entire model population and not repeated regularly). We assigned individual infectivity from a gamma distribution with dispersion parameter k. We found that when k was low (i.e., greater heterogeneity, more superspreading events), reducing random sector contacts had a far greater impact on the epidemic trajectory than did reducing regular contacts; when k was high (i.e., less heterogeneity, no superspreading events), that difference disappeared. These results suggest that overdispersion of COVID-19 transmission gives the virus an Achilles’ heel: Reducing contacts between people who do not regularly meet would substantially reduce the pandemic, while reducing repeated contacts in defined social groups would be less effective.
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|Publication status||Published - 6 Apr 2021|
- Mitigation strategies
- Social networks