Objectives: To summarise the evidence on the duration of infectiousness of individuals in whom SARS-CoV-2 ribonucleic acid is detected.
Methods: A rapid review was undertaken in PubMed, Europe PubMed Central and EMBASE from 1 January 2020 to 26 August 2020.
Results: We identified 15 relevant studies, including 13 virus culture and 2 contact tracing studies. For 5 virus culture studies, the last day on which SARS-CoV-2 was isolated occurred within 10 days of symptom onset. For another 5 studies, SARS-CoV-2 was isolated beyond day 10 for approximately 3% of included patients. The remaining 3 virus culture studies included patients with severe or critical disease; SARS-CoV-2 was isolated up to day 32 in one study. Two studies identified immunocompromised patients from whom SARS-CoV-2 was isolated for up to 20 days. Both contact tracing studies, when close contacts were first exposed greater than 5 days after symptom onset in the index case, found no evidence of laboratory-confirmed onward transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
Conclusion: COVID-19 patients with mild-to-moderate illness are highly unlikely to be infectious beyond 10 days of symptoms. However, evidence from a limited number of studies indicates that patients with severe-to-critical illness or who are immunocompromised, may shed infectious virus for longer.