Sunday 25 October, 2020

What are the implications of Cayman's 'inactive virus' PCR results?

Yesterday the Cayman Islands were alerted to the first apparent case of community acquired COVID-19 in 2-months. The carrier had no travel history and none of their contacts tested positive for the virus. Further, with the frequency of testing (over 38,000 tests to-date) and with the only positive cases having originated from overseas among isolated travellers, how could this positive case even be possible?

According to Cayman's Chief Medical Officer, Dr John Lee, the particles of COVID-19 were detectable but inactive. It appears that this case was a past infection that was lingering in the body.

What are the implications of these findings? Could this person still be contagious? Could the virus reactivate?

According to a report from Live Science, the answer is no.

In a similar set of cases, more than 260 COVID-19 patients in South Korea, who had recovered from the virus, tested positive for coronavirus some time later, which caused people to fear that the virus might be capable of "reactivating."

Apparently there is no need for concern.The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests which uncovered the lingering virus, "cannot distinguish between genetic material (RNA or DNA) from infectious virus and the "dead" virus fragments that can linger in the body long after a person recovers," said the report.

According to Carol Shoshkes Reiss, a professor of Biology and Neural Science at New York University, "Although somebody can recover and no longer be infectious, they may still have these little fragments of [inactive] viral RNA which turn out positive on those tests."

"That's because once the virus has been vanquished, there is all this garbage of broken-down cells that needs to be cleaned up," 

Good news for Cayman-- it seems like there is no need for concern.

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