Local residents and visitors shop on Peascod Street on August 27, 2020 in Windsor, UK.
Mark Kerrison | In the pictures | Getty Images
So-called “silent spreaders” of the coronavirus may be more common than previously thought, with a UK study finding that more than two-thirds of people who tested positive for the virus were asymptomatic the day they took a test.
Researchers from University College London studied data collected by the UK̵
The peer-reviewed study looked at 36,061 individuals who took a coronavirus test as part of the infection survey between April 26 and June 27, 2020. It found that 86.1% of those who tested virus positive reported no “core” virus-associated symptoms (cough, fever, or loss of taste and / or smell) on the day they tested. Of the 115 people who received a positive coronavirus result, only 16 reported the main symptoms we associate with the virus.
Researchers Irene Petersen and Andrew Phillips concluded in the study, published Thursday in the journal Clinical Epidemiology, that “the symptoms of Covid-19 are poor indicators of SARS-CoV-2 (the new coronavirus).”
“To reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2, it is important to identify those who are infectious. However, little is known about what percentage of infectious people are asymptomatic and potential ‘silent’ transmitters,” the researchers noted.
The results of the academic study showed that “a more widespread testing program is needed to capture ‘silent’ transmission and potentially prevent and reduce future epidemics,” they said.
The experimental regimes have had mixed success in Europe. While Germany was praised for its extensive testing program and traceability system for containing outbreaks, the UK took some time to speed up widespread testing and was under pressure from a rapid increase in demand for testing and processing delays.
The launch of the UK track and trace app was also delayed, and the government was recently criticized when it emerged that it had “lost” thousands of positive cases due to a data error.