Al-Sadeq DW and Nasrallah GK. Int J Infect Dis 2020.
BACKGROUND: the recent outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has quickly spread globally since its discovery in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. A comprehensive strategy, including surveillance, diagnostics, research, and clinical treatment is urgently needed to win the battle against COVID-19. Recently, numerous studies reported the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 in asymptomatic patients. Yet, the incidence and viral transmission from the asymptomatic cases are not apparent yet.
AIM: this study aims to systematically review the published literature on SARS-CoV-2 in the asymptomatic patients to estimate the incidence of COVID-19 among asymptomatic cases, as well as describe its epidemiological and clinical significance.
METHOD: the literature was searched through four scientific databases: PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, and Science Direct.
RESULTS: a total of 63 studies satisfied the inclusion criteria where the majority of the reported studies were from China. However, there was a lack of SARS-CoV-2 epidemiological studies from several countries worldwide, tracing the actual incidence of COVID-19, especially in asymptomatic patients. Studies with a large sample size (n>1000) estimated that percentage of people contracting SARS-CoV-2 and are likely to be asymptomatic ranges from 1.2-12.9%. However, the other studies with a smaller sample size reported a much higher incidence and indicated that up to 87.9% of COVID-19 infected individuals could be asymptomatic. Most of these studies indicated that asymptopatics are a potential source of infection to the community.
CONCLUSION: this review highlighted the need for more robust and well-designed studies to better estimate COVID-19 incidence among asymptomatic patients worldwide. The early identification of the asymptomatic cases, as well as monitoring and tracing close contact, could help in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.