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Clin Microbiol Infect ; 2022 Jul 14.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1936214


OBJECTIVES: No studies have examined longitudinal patterns of naturally exhaled SARS-CoV-2 RNA viral load (VL) during acute infection. We report this using facemask sampling (FMS) and assessed the relationship between emitted RNA VL and household transmission. METHODS: Between December 2020 and February 2021, we recruited participants within 24 hours of a positive RT-qPCR on upper respiratory tract sampling (URTS) (day 0). Participants gave FMS (for 1 hour) and URTS (self-taken) on 7 occasions up to day 21. Samples were analysed by RT-qPCR (from sampling matrix strips within the mask) and symptom diaries recorded. Household transmission was assessed through reporting of positive URTS RT-qPCR in household contacts. RESULTS: Analysis of 203 FMS and 190 URTS from 34 participants showed that RNA VL peaked in the first five days following sampling. Concomitant URTS, FMS RNA VL and symptom scores however were poorly correlated, but a higher severity of reported symptoms was associated with FMS positivity up to day 5. Of 28 participants who had household contacts, 12 (43%) reported transmission. Frequency of household transmission was associated with the highest (peak) FMS RNA VL obtained (negative copies/strip: 0% household transmission; 1-1000 copies/strip: 20%; 1001 - 10,000 copies/strip: 57%; >10,000 copies/strip: 75%; p=0.048; age adjusted odds ratio of transmission per log increase in copies/strip: 4.97; 95% CI: 1.20-20.55, p=0.02) but this was not observed with peak URTS RNA VL. CONCLUSIONS: Exhaled RNA VL measured by FMS is highest in early infection, can be positive in symptomatic patients with concomitantly negative URTS and is strongly associated with household transmission.

J Infect ; 82(6): 253-259, 2021 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1152506


BACKGROUND: Human to human transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is driven by the respiratory route but little is known about the pattern and quantity of virus output from exhaled breath. We have previously shown that face-mask sampling (FMS) can detect exhaled tubercle bacilli and have adapted its use to quantify exhaled SARS-CoV-2 RNA in patients admitted to hospital with Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19). METHODS: Between May and December 2020, we took two concomitant FMS and nasopharyngeal samples (NPS) over two days, starting within 24 h of a routine virus positive NPS in patients hospitalised with COVID-19, at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, UK. Participants were asked to wear a modified duckbilled facemask for 30 min, followed by a nasopharyngeal swab. Demographic, clinical, and radiological data, as well as International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infections Consortium (ISARIC) mortality and deterioration scores were obtained. Exposed masks were processed by removal, dissolution and analysis of sampling matrix strips fixed within the mask by RT-qPCR. Viral genome copy numbers were determined and results classified as Negative; Low: ≤999 copies; Medium: 1000-99,999 copies and High ≥ 100,000 copies per strip for FMS or per 100 µl for NPS. RESULTS: 102 FMS and NPS were collected from 66 routinely positive patients; median age: 61 (IQR 49 - 77), of which FMS was positive in 38% of individuals and concomitant NPS was positive in 50%. Positive FMS viral loads varied over five orders of magnitude (<10-3.3 x 106 genome copies/strip); 21 (32%) patients were asymptomatic at the time of sampling. High FMS viral load was associated with respiratory symptoms at time of sampling and shorter interval between sampling and symptom onset (FMS High: median (IQR) 2 days (2-3) vs FMS Negative: 7 days (7-10), p = 0.002). On multivariable linear regression analysis, higher FMS viral loads were associated with higher ISARIC mortality (Medium FMS vs Negative FMS gave an adjusted coefficient of 15.7, 95% CI 3.7-27.7, p = 0.01) and deterioration scores (High FMS vs Negative FMS gave an adjusted coefficient of 37.6, 95% CI 14.0 to 61.3, p = 0.002), while NPS viral loads showed no significant association. CONCLUSION: We demonstrate a simple and effective method for detecting and quantifying exhaled SARS-CoV-2 in hospitalised patients with COVID-19. Higher FMS viral loads were more likely to be associated with developing severe disease compared to NPS viral loads. Similar to NPS, FMS viral load was highest in early disease and in those with active respiratory symptoms, highlighting the potential role of FMS in understanding infectivity.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Humans , Masks , Middle Aged , RNA, Viral , Viral Load