- SARS-CoV-2 can be detectable in feces for up to ~2 weeks and in sputum for up to ~5 weeks after pharyngeal swabs are clear.
- Clear pharyngeal swabs are used to indicate suitability for hospital discharge.
- Whether discharged patients pose potential transmission risk based on existing hospital discharge criteria is unclear.
Why this matters
- These authors say that the results "raise concern about whether patients with negative pharyngeal swabs are truly virus-free, or sampling of additional body sites is needed."
- They also emphasize, however, that sample positivity does not indicate that a patient continues to pose a risk for infection to others.
- This study did not involve culture from samples.
- 22/133 patients had initial or follow-up negative pharyngeal positive sputum or fecal sample pairing.
- 545 specimens were tested (209 pharyngeal, 262 sputum, 74 feces).
- 22 participants: 18 ages 15-65 years and 4 ≤10 years.
- 14 were male, 11 had known travel or exposure history, 5 had >1 preexisting condition.
- 100% met discharge criteria: afebrile >3 days, respiratory symptom resolution, improved chest CT findings, 2 consecutive negative reverse transcription (RT)-qPCR SARS-CoV-2 respiratory samples at least 24 hours apart.
- After clear pharyngeal samples, sputum remained positive for up to 39 days and feces for up to 13 days.
- Retrospective analysis of paired RT-qPCR pharyngeal swabs and sputum or feces samples obtained from hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19, Beijing, China.
- Funding: Beijing Science and Technology Commission.
- No defined schedule serial samples analyzed.