Covid-19 carriers most infectious within 5 days after symptoms set in: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on November 20, 2020

Scientists call for early isolation to prevent further spread of the virus; however, the study did not look at asymptomatic people

A new study carried out by researchers in the United Kingdom has said that Covid-19 positive people are more likely to infect others with their infection within the first five days of developing coronavirus symptoms.

The study revealed that people have the highest viral load in the early phase of the infection. The virus is capable of replicating itself up to nine days after the symptoms begin.

The scientists have called for early isolation in order to prevent further spread of the virus.

Their work was published in the journal Lancet Microbe.

The researchers stated that the level of infection depends on many factors. These include how much viable virus (essentially, virus that is able to replicate) they are carrying, and the amount of virus they have in their bodies.

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For the study, researchers analysed 79 global studies on Covid-19, involving Covid-19 hospitalised patients demonstrating Covid-19 symptoms.

Researchers then replicated a viable virus from throat samples taken up to nine days after infections emerged.

They observed that the number of viral RNA particles (fragments of genetic material from the virus) in people’s throat samples reached its zenith within five days. While inactive viral RNA fragments were still found in nose and throat samples on average up to 17 days after developing the symptoms.

The researchers concluded that it is unlikely that people remain infectious beyond this point.

Dr. Muge Cevik, of the University of St Andrews, told the BBC: “People really need to be supported to make sure they isolate as soon as they get symptoms, however mild. By the time some people get the results of swabs, they may be past their most infectious phase.”

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“So, we need to look more at why some people are unable to isolate immediately and help them to do so," she added.

The limitation of the study is that it did not look at asymptomatic people.

Published on November 20, 2020

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