- The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) persists on fecal and sputum samples up to 39 days after COVID-19-infected patients' pharyngeal samples convert from positive to negative, according to a small study from China.
Why this matters
- The clinical significance of this finding, i.e., whether the positive samples are sufficient to transmit COVID-19, is unknown.
- More research is strongly warranted.
- In the meantime, social distancing of discharged COVID-19 patients may be necessary.
- Convenience sample of 22 COVID-19 patients whose pharyngeal samples converted from positive to negative and who were released from the hospital.
- Discharge required 4 criteria:
- Being afebrile for >3 days.
- Resolution of respiratory symptoms.
- Substantial improvement of chest CT.
- 2 consecutive respiratory samples negative ≥24 hours apart.
- Funding: Beijing Science and Technology Commission.
- All but 2 of 22 patients had mild pneumonia; the 2 had severe and critical illness.
- 18/22 were aged 15-65 years.
- 545 specimens were collected from the 22 patients, including 262 sputum samples and 74 fecal samples.
- Using real-time reverse-transcriptase-quantitative PCR, sputum remained positive for SARS-CoV-2 up to 39 days and feces remained positive for 13 days after pharyngeal samples converted from positive to negative.
- Convenience sample.
- Small numbers, no controls.