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Unexpected SARS-CoV-2 positivity in postmortem nasopharyngeal swabs
  1. Melanie Jensen1,
  2. Lutful Wahab2
  1. 1 Department of Cellular Pathology, Northwest London Pathology, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK
  2. 2 Department of Pathology, Hemel Hempstead General Hospital, West Hertfordshire Hospital NHS Trust, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Melanie Jensen, Department of Cellular Pathology, Northwest London Pathology, Charing Cross Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, London W6 8RF, UK; m.jensen{at}

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SARS-CoV-2 is considered a hazard group 3 pathogen (HG3) by the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens; risk of transmission to mortuary staff is high without appropriate safety precautions. Recent guidance from the Royal College of Pathologists outlines key principles in safe autopsy practice relating to possible cases of SARS-CoV-2.1 Major recommendations include the use of a fold flat and moulded mask or whole-body suit and a staged postmortem where appropriate. Such measures are only implemented if the autopsy is considered high risk, on the basis of antemortem swab results and/or the clinical history on the coroner’s request form. Given both the paucity of community testing and the reticence of patients to attend hospital during the peak of the pandemic, such information may be insufficient in assessing risk of potential SARS-CoV-2 carriage postmortem. …

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  • Handling editor Tahir S Pillay.

  • Contributors MJ and LW contributed to the conception and design of the study. MJ collected, analysed the data and drafted the manuscript. LW critically reviewed the manuscript.

  • Funding MJ is a National Institute for Health Research Academic Clinical Fellow. The funding bodies had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; nor the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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