1 in 10 people may still be infectious for COVID after ten days

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In a new study from the University of Exeter, researchers found one in 10 people may have clinically relevant levels of potentially infectious SARS-CoV-2 past the 10 day quarantine period in the UK.

They used a newly adapted test that can detect whether the virus was potentially still active. It was applied to samples from 176 people who had tested positive on standard PCR tests.

The team found that 13% of people still exhibited clinically-relevant levels of virus after 10 days, meaning they could potentially still be infectious.

Some people retained these levels for up to 68 days. The authors believe this new test should be applied in settings where people are vulnerable, to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The results suggest that a potentially active virus may sometimes persist beyond a 10 day period, and could pose a potential risk of onward transmission.

Furthermore, there was nothing clinically remarkable about these people, which means we wouldn’t be able to predict who they are.

Conventional PCR tests work by testing for the presence of viral fragments. While they can tell if someone has recently had the virus, they cannot detect whether it is still active, and the person is infectious.

The test used in the latest study however gives a positive result only when the virus is active and potentially capable of onward transmission.

The team says in some settings, such as people returning to care homes about illness, People continuing to be infectious after ten days could pose a serious public health risk.

Doctors may need to ensure people in those setting have a negative active virus test to ensure people are no longer infectious. The researchers now want to conduct larger trials to investigate this further.

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The study is published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases and was conducted by Professor Lorna Harries et al.

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