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‘Test, test, test’ even after death: persistence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in postmortem nasopharyngeal swabs
  1. Kate El Bouzidi1,
  2. Mark Howard2,
  3. Hiam Ali3,
  4. Mihir Khan2,
  5. Andrew Harris4,5,
  6. Mark Zuckerman1
  1. 1South London Specialist Virology Centre, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Histopathology, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  3. 3General Medical Council, London, UK
  4. 4William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  5. 5London Inner South Coroner's Court, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kate El Bouzidi, South London Specialist Virology Centre, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London SE5 9RS, UK; k.elbouzidi{at}

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Over 57 00 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 in the UK.1–3 It is feared that the true figure is higher as there were over 16 000 ‘excess’ deaths between March and June 2020 in which COVID-19 was not a certified cause.1 4–6 Non-COVID causes, possibly related to the lockdown, would have accounted for some of this difference. However, the lack of community testing and challenges of performing autopsies7 mean that many COVID-19 deaths remain undetected.

Missed infections represent lost opportunities on many levels. Incomplete mortality data underestimate the burden of disease, particularly in high-risk groups who may not seek medical care. Unrecognised COVID-19 deaths have serious public health implications and impede effective …

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  • Handling editor Tahir S Pillay.

  • Contributors All authors collected data. KEB analysed the data. KEB and MZ wrote the first draft. All authors revised and contributed to the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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