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expert reaction to paper on ‘shedding’ of SARS-CoV-2 virus in 9 patients with COVID-19

A paper, published in Nature, reports on the ‘shedding’ of SARS-CoV-2 virus in 9 patients with COVID-19.


Prof Rosalind Smyth, Director and Professor of Child Health, UCL Great Ormond St Institute of Child Health, said:

“This is an important study, albeit in a limited number of people affected by COVID-19.  There is very little data out there on patients, such as those in this study, with mild disease.  The viral load is very high in the throat and early after onset of symptoms.  This helps to explain why the virus is so infectious; it can be transmitted by droplets from the upper respiratory tract, before people may be aware that they have an infection. The high replication in the upper respiratory tract may also explain the profound loss of taste and smell people have been reporting, even in those with few other symptoms.”


Prof Lawrence Young, Warwick Medical School, said:

“This study provides the first detailed analysis of the dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 infection in patients with mild disease. It supports the use of simple throat swabs to diagnose virus infection, demonstrates high levels of virus replication in the upper respiratory tract early in the course of infection, and highlights the efficient transmission of virus infection when symptoms are mild. Prolonged virus shedding in sputum is observed suggesting that patients should remain isolated at home after discharge from hospital. A significant finding is the development of neutralising antibody responses during the second week of symptoms which appears to correlate with a decline in active virus replication. This holds out hope that a vaccine, targeting the virus spike protein, could be effective at preventing infection.”


“Virological assessment of hospitalized patients with COVID-2019” was published in Nature on Wednesday 1 April at 10:00am UK time.


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