Healthcare workers & SARS-CoV-2 infection in India: A case-control investigation in the time of COVID-19
Pranab Chatterjee1, Tanu Anand2, Kh Jitenkumar Singh3, Reeta Rasaily4, Ravinder Singh5, Santasabuj Das6, Harpreet Singh7, Ira Praharaj8, Raman R Gangakhedkar8, Balram Bhargava9, Samiran Panda10
1 Translational Global Health Policy Research Cell, New Delhi, India
2 Multidisciplinary Research Unit/Model Rural Health Research Unit, New Delhi, India
3 ICMR-National Institute of Medical Statistics, New Delhi, India
4 Division of Reproductive Biology, Maternal Health & Child Health, New Delhi, India
5 Division of Non-Communicable Diseases, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India
6 Division of Clinical Medicine, ICMR-National Institute of Cholera & Enteric Diseases, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
7 Informatics, Systems & Research Management Cell, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India
8 Division of Epidemiology & Communicable Diseases, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India
9 Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare; Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India
10 ICMR-National AIDS Research Institute, Pune, Maharashtra, India
ICMR-National AIDS Research Institute, 73-G, MIDC, Bhosari, Post Box No. 1895, Pune 411 026, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Background & objectives: Healthcare workers (HCWs) are at an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19. While intense occupational exposure associated with aerosol-generating procedures underlines the necessity of using personal protective equipment (PPE) by HCWs, high-transmission efficiency of the causative agent [severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)] could also lead to infections beyond such settings. Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a repurposed antimalarial drug, was empirically recommended as prophylaxis by the National COVID-19 Task Force in India to cover such added risk. Against this background, the current investigation was carried out to identify the factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection among HCWs in the country.
Methods: A case-control design was adopted and participants were randomly drawn from the countrywide COVID-19 testing data portal maintained by the ICMR. The test results and contact details of HCWs, diagnosed as positive (cases) or negative (controls) for SARS-CoV-2 using real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), were available from this database. A 20-item brief-questionnaire elicited information on place of work, procedures conducted and use of PPE.
Results: Compared to controls, cases were slightly older (34.7 vs. 33.5 yr) and had more males (58 vs. 50%). In multivariate analyses, HCWs performing endotracheal intubation had higher odds of being SARS-CoV-2 infected [adjusted odds ratio (AOR): 4.33, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.16-16.07]. Consumption of four or more maintenance doses of HCQ was associated with a significant decline in the odds of getting infected (AOR: 0.44; 95% CI: 0.22-0.88); a dose-response relationship existed between frequency of exposure to HCQ and such reductions (χ for trend=48.88; P <0.001). In addition, the use of PPE was independently associated with the reduction in odds of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2.
Interpretations & conclusions: Until results of clinical trials for HCQ prophylaxis become available, this study provides actionable information for policymakers to protect HCWs at the forefront of COVID-19 response. The public health message of sustained intake of HCQ prophylaxis as well as appropriate PPE use need to be considered in conjunction with risk homoeostasis operating at individual levels.