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SARS-CoV-2 Viral Load in Upper Respiratory Specimens of Infected Patients

By Currents Editor posted 04-06-2020 09:50


New England Journal of Medicine (03/19/20) 382:1177-1179  doi: 10.1056/NEJMp2005689

Zou, Lirong; Ruan, Feng; Huang, Mingxing; et al.

The viral nucleic acid shedding pattern of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that is spreading worldwide, is similar to that of patients infected with influenza, according to a new analysis out of China. The pattern appears different from SARS-CoV, a global epidemic that caused more than 8,000 infections worldwide in 2002-2003. In a letter to the editor, researchers report they monitored SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in upper respiratory specimens taken from 18 individuals, one of whom was asymptomatic. One patient was asymptomatic but a close contact of a patient with a known case, so was monitored as a result. An analysis of nasal and throat swabs obtained from the 17 symptomatic patients revealed that higher viral loads, especially in the throat, were detected soon after symptoms appeared. For the patient without symptoms, the viral load was similar to that of the symptomatic patients, “which suggests the transmission potential of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic patients,” the researchers report. The data “are in concordance with reports that transmission may occur early in the course of infection and suggest that case detection and isolation may require strategies different from those required for the control of SARS-CoV,” according to the authors.


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