Covid-19 virus lingers longer in sicker patients, Chinese study finds
The new coronavirus persists for up to three weeks in the bodies of patients with serious illness, Chinese researchers reported on Tuesday.
The virus is found deep in the lungs and stool of patients, and the sicker they are, the longer they stay, the team from a hospital in China’s Zhejiang Province reported. But the virus was found in patients’ urine less than half the time, and rarely in the blood at first.
Their report provides another piece of evidence about the disease model in Covid-19 patients. It was published at BMJ. Unlike many recently published studies on the coronavirus, this has been peer reviewed, which means that other experts have reviewed the results.
The team tested 96 patients treated in their hospital for Covid-19 between January and March. They tested samples from the nose and throat, from the depths of the respiratory system, blood, stool and urine. They wanted to see how long people had a virus in their systems and whether it was likely to spread in various ways. The results confirm other studies showing that the virus could spread in the stools of infected people.
In general, the sicker the people, the longer the virus could be detected. This could be important for doctors to know, so that they can predict which patients will fare better and, perhaps, how long they will remain infectious for others.
“The median duration of the virus in respiratory samples was 18 days,” they wrote.
More on this: An earlier Chinese study had shown that people without symptoms had as much virus in their nose as people with symptoms of Covid-19 – which indicated that people who were not sick might be as likely to spread the virus as people who are.
The Zhejiang team, however, found that sick people had more viruses deeper in their airways.
They also found differences between men and women with Covid-19. “In this study, we found that the duration of the virus was significantly longer in men than in women,” they wrote.
“Our results highlight the causes of the severity of the disease in men in terms of the duration of the virus. In addition to differences in immune status between men and women, it has also been reported to be linked to differences in hormone levels, “the team wrote.