A MACRO-STUDY confirms that an asymptomatic person can be as contagious as a hospitalized patient. The largest study of viral load in covid patients, with more than 25,000 participants, now confirms the decisive role of invisible super spreaders. From the Charité Hospital in Berlin Germany, the research shows that people infected with coronavirus reach their peak viral load in the throat between one and three days before the onset of symptoms. Some people become real virus spreaders without suspecting it.
According to the new study, a normal sample taken from the throat contains 2.5 million copies of the virus genome, but nearly 9% of those infected have 1 billion copies or more. The work confirms an explosive scenario: more than a third of patients with a very high viral load are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms. Given that the average age is 37, they are a highly mobile population.
As reported in El País, the lead author of the research, virologist Christian Drosten, said in a statement that this data supports “the idea that a minority of infected people cause the majority of infections.” Their results have been published this Tuesday in the journal Science highlighting that a person without symptoms can be as contagious as a hospitalized covid patient.
The German study also illuminates another of the most confusing aspects of the pandemic: the role of children. Researchers have not observed large differences in viral load for people between the ages of 20 and 65. The amount of virus was lower in children under the age of five, with levels of at least 800,000 copies of the coronavirus genome. Viral load, however, increases with age and approaches adult figures in older children and adolescents. “My initial assumption – that all age groups have approximately the same level of infectivity – has been confirmed, both by this and by other studies,” commented Drosten. The German scientist recalls the well-known solution against the spread of the virus, masks and physical distance.