A new study suggests that 10 days quarantine may not be enough, finding one in 10 people may still remain contagious even after this point.
According to a small study from the UK, which was published in International Journal of Infectious Diseases in December and looked at 176 patients who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 by PCR, a new type of test found that some patients were infectious for more than the standard 10-day quarantine period.
While this is a relatively small study, our results suggest that the potentially active virus can sometimes persist beyond a 10-day period and may pose a potential risk of further transmission, says Lorna Harries, a professor at the University School of Medicine. Exeter who oversaw the study, said in a press release. Moreover, there was nothing clinically extraordinary about these people, which means that we would not be able to predict who they are.
PCR tests are the gold standard to identify if a person has COVID-19 and work looking for viral fragments. But they do not tell us whether a person is currently infectious or not, according to the study, as those fragments may still be present in the system after viral cleansing.
Another way to test is by looking for subgenomic RNAs, the researchers said, which are produced when a virus actively replicates.
The researchers looked at RNA from samples collected from 176 individuals who had previously tested positive for PCR for COVID-19 between March 17, 2020 and November 29, 2020. Of these patients, 74 were asymptomatic, 36 had mild disease, and 22 had moderate disease and 33 were classified as having severe disease.
They found that 13 percent of sgRNA-positive cases still exhibited clinically significant virus levels after 10 days.
For the 17 people in the study, follow-up samples were available. Five of these individuals showed sgRNA-positive for up to 68 days.
Researchers believe this type of test can be applied to high-risk scenarios, such as testing health care workers or those working in long-term care.
In some settings, such as people returning to nursing homes after illness, people who continue to be contagious after ten days can pose a serious risk to public health, said in the announcement Merlin Davies, lead author of the study. We may need to make sure people in those settings have a negative active virus test to make sure people are no longer contagious. We now want to conduct greater evidence to investigate this further.
Several previous studies have suggested that the presence of sgRNA does not mean that the virus is obviously active and the researchers acknowledged that the issue needs further research.
But this suggests that the 10-day rule may not be absolute in every case.
Given the apparent potential for further transmission that these cases may have, the study concludes that more targeted studies should now be undertaken to detect and examine secondary cases with transmission beyond 10 days.
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