Recently, a study was published in "Nature Microbiology", the journal of Natural Microbiology. This is a study led by scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The virus rises and falls in a person's saliva and nasal passages. Notably, the study is the first to track the duration of acute COVID-19 infection through repeated sampling and compare the results of different testing methods.
Specifically, the University of Illinois' COVID-19 Response Plan began testing staff, students, and faculty twice a week in the fall of 2020. The Illinois researchers realized that test data could be a treasure trove of information about the course of the infection: how quickly different SARS-CoV-2 variants replicate and how individuals differ in their ability to clear the infection.
Researchers have captured the most complete, high-resolution, quantitative picture of how SARS-CoV-2 replicates and sheds in humans during natural infection. To determine how long an infected person might be shedding the virus in places like their saliva or nasal passages -- the key to understanding how the virus spreads and persists in a population -- the team also used viral cultures to measure The shedding of infectious virus in their samples.
Ruian Kerr, a collaborator at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the paper's first author, used various mathematical models to help the team understand how the data reflected the underlying infection process and identified factors that influenced it.
The conclusion of the study, and the key part, is that the researchers also found that the viral genome load -- detectable by PCR -- peaked earlier in saliva samples than in nasal swabs. This suggests that saliva may serve as a superior sampling point for early detection of infection, the researchers wrote.
Laboratory consumables manufacturers said that this means that the current collection method of concentrated nucleic acid needs to be cut off as soon as possible, and a more efficient and safer method of saliva collection and screening should be used instead. Cutting off the spread of the virus must start with cutting off the collection of nucleic acids.
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