Transmission and clinical characteristics of asymptomatic patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection

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Since December 2019, when the current coronavirus pandemic first broke out in Wuhan, China, the characteristics of the disease, COVID-19, have been recorded. The most common clinical symptoms include fever, a dry cough, shortness of breath and a loss of sense of smell and taste. However, it has been noted that many people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus can present as asymptomatic. The concern with asymptomatic patients is that they can still transmit the virus and could be a possible source of infection for the wider population, contributing to the rapid spread of the disease that has been seen across the globe. In this Special Report, published as part of the Special Focus Issue ‘COVID-19: studying the global pandemic’ in Future Virology, the authors explore methods to identify asymptomatic patients and further understand this aspect of the disease.

Abstract

The 2019 novel coronavirus disease, SARS-CoV-2, is now spreading globally and is characterized by person-to-person transmission. However, it has recently been found that individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 can be asymptomatic, and simultaneously a source of infection in others. The viral load detected in nasopharyngeal swabs of asymptomatic carriers is relatively high, with a great potential for transmission. More attention should be paid to the insidious spread of disease and harm contributed by asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 carriers. To provide a theoretical basis for the accurate and early clinical identification of asymptomatic patients, this review objectively summarizes the epidemic status, transmission characteristics and clinical features of asymptomatic patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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