Since the pandemic’s beginning, it’s been commonly known that asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 can spread the virus. However, according to a new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, they can be just as infectious as carriers with symptoms.
Researchers, in South Korea, analyzed 303 young adults, who tested positive for Coronavirus. During their study’s analysis period, roughly one third of participants never developed symptoms, while the rest did.
Over the course of a month, samples were taken from all participants.
The study’s authors found that there were as many traces of COVID-19 in asymptomatic carriers, as there were in symptomatic carriers. With the exact same amount of the virus identified in their systems, they concluded that those without symptoms could spread it as rapidly as those with symptoms.
“It’s important data, that’s for sure,” said Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of South Carolina who was not involved in the work. “And it does confirm what we’ve suspected for a long time — that asymptomatic cases can transmit infection.”
However, while this theory is very likely, the study explains that its hard to know exactly how frequently asymptomatic carriers are transmitting the virus.
Dr. Simon Clarke MD, a cellular microbiologist at the University of Reading, in England, says “While there is as much virus in their respiratory mucus as someone who has the disease, it doesn't mean asymptomatic COVID-19 patients are spraying as much virus into the environment.”
Both Dr. Clarke and the study agree that asymptomatic carriers still pose a health risk to people without the virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci MD, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease says, "There are people who are spreading it who have no symptoms at all, and we know that definitely occurs. It's difficult to identify it, and it's difficult to do identification, isolation and contact tracing,"
The study’s researchers concluded “for a better understanding of the viral shedding and potential transmissibility of asymptomatic infection, large rigorous epidemiologic and experimental studies are needed."