Jerusalem: In a bizzare case, a man tested positive for Covid almost six full weeks after his death, media reports said.
In September 2021, a 41-year-old Ukrainian man, who went swimming in the sea on the Italian coast with his friend, was missing. Sixteen hours later, he was declared dead after drowning, Jerusalem Post reported.
In a medical mystery, Italian researchers found his body was found positive for the virus no less than 28 times, the report said.
The case, published in the BMC Journal of Medical Case Reports, reveals that before death, the man was “completely asymptomatic”.
According to the researchers, the man most likely had a fairly low viral load when he died.
“This data reflect the importance of postmortem swabs in all autopsy cases, and not only in potential severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2-related death,” Cristian D’Ovidio, from Center for Advanced Studies and Technology (CAST) at University “G. d’Annunzio” of Chieti-Pescara, in Italy wrote in the paper.
The findings shows that pathologists should check for virus particles “long after the moment of death, even if low initial viral load has been assessed”, D’Ovidio said.
Further, until the end of the test period the virus particles could be identified. In fact, after 41 days had passed, these tests no longer absorbed human RNA. This means that the virus tests were still positive, while human cells became unrecognisable, the report said.
“Twenty-eight pharyngeal surfaces were performed on the body,” the case report said, and “always by the same team, properly prepared and with standard procedures according to international guidelines and established protocols”. Each of the tests was positive. The staff even re-checked each of them with a different set of reagents, (reactive chemical agents) just in case, the team wrote in the paper.
The case report has real implications for the treatment of corpses during the pandemic.
“There is a lack of data on the presence of the virus on corpses and the risk of infection from corpses. This is a problem because “performing a post-mortem autopsy puts different groups of workers (pathologists, technicians and so on) in contact with a possible source of biological risk, with consequences not only from a health point of view but also medically,” the researchers said.
In 2020, researchers from the UK performed an autopsy on the body of a 50-year-old man who died from Covid. Twenty-seven days after his death, the virus was detected in his lungs. This is despite the long time that passed and that swabs of his nose and throat performed right after his death came out negative, the report said.