Viral shedding is high in first days of coronavirus illness, study shows

People who have contracted the new coronavirus "shed" the virus most heavily in the first few days of the illiness, and shedding may continue even after they stop showing symptoms, according to a new study.

The study has not been peer-reviewed, but it still may offer valuable information for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Conducted by German researchers, the study examined nine people with COVID-19. They studied viral shedding, which occurs when the virus is released from the host.

Researchers found that viral shedding occurred in high levels from the throat at the earliest points of the illness for all patients, according to STAT News. But viral shedding levels dropped after the fifth day in all patients except for the two with more severe cases of COVID-19, who continued to shed the virus from the throat at high levels until the 10th or 11th day.

Researchers also tried to grow viruses from sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus), blood, urine and stool samples taken from the patients, which can help determine how people infect others and the timeframe within which infection passes from one person to another. But they could not grow viruses from the throat and sputum samples taken from those with mild illnesses after eight days of the illness, STAT reports.

Thus, people with mild infections can test positive per throat swabs after their illness, but they are likely not infectious about 10 days after they start experiencing symptoms.

Researchers contrasted viral shedding of the SARS coronavirus, which occurred later in the timeframe of the illness. COVID-19 is shedding 1,000-plus times more virus than SARS patients emitted during peak shedding, according to STAT.

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