Patients with mild cases of COVID-19 may shed virus for up to eight days after symptoms resolve

Research has suggested that COVID-19 patients who had mild symptoms could shed the virus for up to eight days after symptom resolution.

Coughing into elbow

Open access article

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

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Minor symptoms of COVID-19 include a dry, persistent cough and slight fever

Half of people with mild symptoms of COVID-19 remained ‘viral positive’ after their condition resolved, a small study from a Beijing hospital, published in the American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine (23 March 2020), has suggested[1]

The researchers studied 16 people with confirmed COVID-19 and mild symptoms, including fever and cough. They calculated an average incubation period of five days and mean symptom duration of eight days.

Patients were discharged on recovery and had throat swabs taken every other day until they were confirmed “viral negative” in real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on two consecutive tests. 

Overall, half the patients remained viral positive after symptom resolution, for a median of 2.5 days, and as long as 8.0 days.

The team said viral positive status could be used as a marker for viral shedding, which could indicate whether patients are still contagious. They said the apparent persistence of the virus could pose a significant challenge in controlling its spread.

“However, further studies are needed to investigate if the real-time PCR-detected virus is capable of transmission at the later stage of the disease,” the researchers noted.


[1] Chang D, Mo G, Yuan X et al.  Am J Resp Crit Care Med 2020. doi: 10.1164/rccm.202003-0524LE

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Patients with mild cases of COVID-19 may shed virus for up to eight days after symptoms resolve;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20207876

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