The prevalence and clinical significance of Presymptomatic COVID-19 patients: how we can be one step ahead in mitigating a deadly pandemic

Link to article at PubMed

BMC Infect Dis. 2021 Mar 9;21(1):249. doi: 10.1186/s12879-021-05849-7.


BACKGROUND: Presymptomatic COVID-19 patients have been identified as a major stumbling block in efforts to break the chain of transmission. Studies on temporal dynamics of its shedding suggests it peaks 1-2 days prior to any symptom onset. Therefore, a large proportion of patients are actively spreading the disease unknowingly whilst undetected. However, lengthy lockdowns and isolation leads to a host of socioeconomic issues and are impractical. Conversely, there exists no study describing this group and their clinical significance despite their key role in disease transmission.

METHODS: As a result, we devised a retrospective study to look at the prevalence of presymptomatic patients with COVID-19 from data sourced via our medical records office. Subsequently, we identify early indicators of infection through demographic information, biochemical and radiological abnormalities which would allow early diagnosis and isolation. In addition, we will look into the clinical significance of this group and their outcome; if it differs from asymptomatic or symptomatic patients. Descriptive statistics were used in addition to tabulating the variables and corresponding values for reference. Variables are compared between the presymptomatic group and others via Chi-square testing and Fisher's exact test, accepting a p value of < 0.05 as significant.

RESULTS: Our analysis shows a higher proportion of presymptomatic patients with atypical symptoms like chest pain while symptomatic patients commonly present with respiratory symptoms like cough and shortness of breath. Besides that, there were more females presenting as presymptomatic patients compared to males (p = 0.019) and these group of patients were likely to receive treatment (p < 0.001). Otherwise, we were not able to identify other statistically significant markers suggesting a patient is presymptomatic.

CONCLUSION: As we have little means of identifying these silent spreaders, it highlights further the importance of general measures implemented to stop COVID-19 transmission like social distancing, face mask, and widespread testing.

PMID:33750347 | DOI:10.1186/s12879-021-05849-7

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