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Persistent viral infectivity after 27 days from COVID-19 symptoms onset
  1. Luisa Zupin1,
  2. Francesco Fontana2,
  3. Libera Clemente2,
  4. Pierino Boschian-Bailo3,
  5. Maurizio Ruscio2,
  6. Sergio Crovella4
  1. 1 Medical Genetics, IRCCS Materno Infantile Burlo Garofolo, Trieste, Italy
  2. 2 Laboratory Medicine, University Hospital Giuliano Isontina (ASU GI), Trieste, Italy
  3. 3 Maternal-Pediatric Department, University Hospital Giuliano Isontina (ASU GI), Trieste, Italy
  4. 4 Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Qatar, Doha, Qatar
  1. Correspondence to Dr Luisa Zupin, IRCCS Materno Infantile Burlo Garofolo, Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy; luisa.zupin{at}

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The persistence of SARS-CoV-2 in pharyngeal swabs belonging to patients affected by COVID-19 is not a rare occurrence. Indeed, the viral load determined through real-time reverse-transcriptase PCR (rRT-PCR) test peaks at the onset of symptoms and decreases to undetectable level within 1–3 weeks.1

Nevertheless, few studies investigated the potential infectivity of the clinical specimens, and to date viral culture isolation failed after some weeks from the first symptoms,1 being the 18th day the last timing in which virus replication in vitro was achieved in immunocompetent host.2

Here we report the case of SARS-CoV-2 infection positivity at the molecular test after 42 days, describing successful viral replication in vitro obtained after 27 days from the first positive swab.

A 58-year-old man resulted positive to SARS-CoV-2 during routine screening for health workers; he was initially asymptomatic. He underwent isolation and was treated with lactoferrin, vitamin C and D. The subsequent day after testing positive, swab specimens from his wife and daughter yielded positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection; however, they returned negative after 15 and 10 days, respectively. After 4 days he developed fever (max 38.7°C) and cough and was treated with paracetamol and levocloperastine. At the seventh day after the swab positivity he aggravated and presented dyspnoea exertional, although with 94%–97% saturation and no pulmonary abnormalities evidenced by direct lung auscultation; treatment with azithromycin (500 mg/day) for 6 days was started. After 3 days of treatment, he did not show fever. After 23 days he continued to have a cough that was successfully treated with prednisone (50 mg/day for 4 days, 25 mg/day for 2 days, 12.5 mg/day for 2 days). At the haematologic analysis the unique alteration regarded an increment of D-dimer (D-dimer=996 ng/mL), a characteristic associated with a hypercoagulative status often found in severe cases of COVID-19.3 Treatment with fodaparinux (2.5 mg/day for 10 days) was initiated. The leucocytes …

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  • Handling editor Tahir S Pillay.

  • Contributors LZ and LC were involved in performing the experiments and writing of original draft. FF and MR were involved in supervision of the experiments conducted in the BLS3 facility, writing the review and editing. PB-B was involved in patient management. SC was involved in conceptualisation of the study, writing the review and editing.

  • Funding This work was supported by IRCCS Burlo Garofolo/Italian Ministry of Health (RC 15/2017, 03/2020, 47/2020).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.