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The body of a Ukrainian man tested positive for Covid-19 as many as 28 times in the six weeks following his death, according to scientists.
The 41-year-old was on holiday with his friends in Italy when he went missing while swimming out at sea.
Unfortunately, after a bout of rough weather, he went missing and his body washed up on the shore’s rocks 16 hours later.
During a routine Covid test of the corpse as part of his autopsy, the swab result turned out to be positive, prompting scientists at Italy’s D’Annunzio University to conduct more tests.
The man was believed to be asymptomatic before his death, which explains why he tested positive immediately after his body was found.
However, he then tested positive over a period of 41 days on 28 tests.
During this period, the corpse was kept at 4C in the morgue at Chieti Hospital inside a sealed waterproof bag.
The case has now been published in the Journal of Medicine Case due to its ground-breaking contribution to Covid-19 data.
Little is known about the transmission of Covid-19 infection from a corpse, so this rare case provides scientists with valuable information on how long infection can persist in a body even after the person is dead.
“The present case shows the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA up to 41 days after death,” the researchers from the university’s Center for Advanced Studies and Technology wrote.
“Data about its persistence are of fundamental importance for pathologists to understand when the handling of the corpse is safe, and further studies are needed to estimate the virus contagiousness.”
Tests were limited to the 41-day period as the man was buried shortly after.
However, scientists explained that the case reflects the ‘importance of post-mortem swabs in all autopsy cases, and not only in potential acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2-related death’.
They also emphasised the need to evaluate virus positivity a long time after the moment of death, even if a low initial viral load was assessed.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an end to all Covid-19 self-isolation rules in England, which could come into effect soon.
Johnson announced the move whilst facing Keir Starmer during Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament on 9 February.
The plans to end the mandatory self-isolation period for anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 will come ‘a full month earlier’ than planned, with the exact date to be confirmed in a statement to MPs on Monday 21 February.
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