Covid-19: Body of drowned man tests positive for virus 28 times

Scientists say this rare case offers insight into how long the coronavirus can stay in the body even after death.

A Ukrainian man who drowned in Italy while swimming has tested positive for Covid-19 28 times within a six-week period, scientists who examined his body say.

Rare insight

The body of the 41-year-old man was found wedged between rocks, 16 hours after he went missing while swimming with a friend in Chieti, Italy.

A study published in the Journal of Medicine Case said the man was believed to be asymptomatic before his death.

But, when a routine Covid test was conducted on his body in line with Italy’s current guidelines, the result came out positive. The tests were done 28 times during 41 days after his death.

While there is hardly any data on the transmission of infection from a corpse, scientists of Italy’s D’Annunzio University say this case offers some insight into how long the virus can persist in the body after death. Researchers wrote in the report:

The present case shows the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA up to 41 days after death. Data about its persistence are of fundamental importance for pathologists to understand when the handling of the corpse is safe, and further studies are needed to estimate the virus contagiousness.

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What’s new?

The findings contribute to data on how the virus behaves in both living subjects and inanimate surfaces. A previous research shows that the coronavirus was detected on surfaces for up to five days, while one study found the virus in cruise ship cabins 17 days after passengers disembarked.

And last year, tissue samples from the throats of deceased Covid patients indicated that the virus could replicate up to 35 hours after death.

Authors of this latest study say more research is needed in this area.

However, there is a lack of data on virus persistency on dead bodies and on the risk of contagion from cadavers. These data are of fundamental importance as the execution of the autopsies puts various categories of workers (pathologists, technicians, and so on) in contact with a possible source of biological risk…

The workers who come into contact with corpses have been cautioned to minimize their contact and exposure to infected body fluids.

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