World

Superspreading Boston biotech meet in Feb tied to 1.9% of US cases

As many as 3,00,000 coronavirus cases across the US can be traced to a two-day conference in Boston attended by 175 biotech executives in February, according to a study published on Thursday in the journal Science.
The conference, convened by the drug company Biogen, was one of the earliest examples in the pandemic of what epidemiologists call “superspreading events.”. But New genetic data made publicly available in recent months by many states has allowed researchers for the first time to estimate the national scope of its astonishing ripple effect. To track the spread, the researchers took advantage of a kind of genetic fingerprint that they identified in samples of the virus taken from 28 people who had attended the meeting. An earlier version of the paper published online in June suggested that the conference had seeded tens of thousands of cases in the Boston area alone.
By March, the researchers had found, viruses bearing the same signature began to appear in the viral genomes taken from coronavirus patients in several other states. But by November, viruses containing the marker could be found in 29 states, linked to some 70,000 in Florida alone. And because the viral genome data linked to US cases has grown by tenfold since June, the researchers are able to make a reliable national estimate. The conference, the study estimates, is responsible for 1.9% of all cases in the US since the start of the pandemic.

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