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Clinical characteristics of the recovered COVID-19 patients with re-detectable positive RNA test

By Jianghong An, Xuejiao Liao, Tongyang Xiao, Shen Qian, Jing Yuan, Haocheng Ye, Furong Qi, Chengguang Shen, Yang Liu, Lifei Wang, Xiaoya Cheng, Na Li, Qingxian Cai, Fang Wang, Jun Chen, Yingxia Liu, Yunfang Wang, Feng Zhang, Yang Fu, Xiaohua Tan, Lei Liu, Zheng Zhang

Posted 30 Mar 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.26.20044222

BackgroundIt has been reported that several cases recovered from COVID-19 tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after discharge (re-detectable positive, RP), however the clinical characteristics, significance and potential cause of RP patients remained elusive. MethodsA total of 262 COVID-19 patients were discharged from January 23 to February 25, 2020, and were enrolled for analysis of their clinical parameters. The RP and non-RP (NRP) patients were grouped according to the disease severity during their hospitalization period. The clinical characterization at re-admission to the hospital was analyzed. SARS-CoV-2 RNA and plasma antibody levels were detected using high-sensitive detection methods. FindingsUp to March 10, 2020, all of patients were followed up for at least 14 days, and 38/262 of RP patients (14.5%) were present. The RP patients were characterized by being less than 14-years old and having mild and moderate conditions as compared to NRP patients, while no severe patients became RP. Retrospectively, the RP patients displayed fewer symptoms, more sustained remission of CT imaging and earlier RNA negative-conversion but similar plasma antibody levels during their hospitalization period as compared to those NRP patients. When re-admitted to the hospital, these RP patients showed no obvious clinical symptoms or disease progression indicated by normal or improving CT imaging and inflammatory cytokine levels. All 21 close contacts of RP patients were tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 RNA, and no suspicious clinical symptoms were reported. However, 18/24 of RNA-negative samples detected by the commercial kit were tested to be positive for virus RNA using a hyper-sensitive method, suggesting the carrier status of virus possibly existed in patients recovered from COVID-19. InterpretationOur results showed that young and mild COVID-19 patients seem to be RP patients after discharge, who show no obviously clinical symptoms and disease progression upon re-admission. More sensitive RNA detection methods are required to monitor these patients during follow-up. Our findings provide empirical information and evidence for the effective management of COVID-19 patients during their convalescent phase.

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