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Boston superspreading event seeded thousands of COVID-19 cases

Tens of thousands of coronavirus infections are likely linked to a biotech conference that took place in Boston in late February, including nearly 3% of U.S. cases and 1.7% of global cases for which genetic sequences exist, The Boston Herald reports. Following the superspreading event—a management conference at the biotech firm Biogen—researchers sequenced 772 SARS-CoV-2 genomes from across Massachusetts, revealing more than 80 unique COVID-19 introductions into the Boston area, they report in a preprint posted to medRxiv this week. The characteristic mutation linked to cases contracted at the conference appeared throughout the state—and made up more than 50% of cases in an early outbreak in Boston homeless shelters. Researchers say superspreading events can differ significantly in the number of new mutations, raising the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 might encompass disparate transmission dynamics.

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