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Can more extensive corona tests help eliminate the virus?
The identification and isolation of asymptomatic individuals helped to eliminate the coronavirus in a small Italian village. Since many sufferers have no symptoms, but still make a significant contribution to the transmission of the virus, preventive tests for the virus are an effective step in containing Covid-19, reports an Italian expert in the journal "BMJ".
The team led by Professor Sergio Romagnani from the University of Florence emphasizes that most people who are infected with the new coronavirus show no symptoms, but are still able to infect others. This was also shown by the outbreak in a small Italian village, in which the entire population was tested after the first cases occurred. The tests made it possible to drastically reduce the number of new infections, said Prof. Romagnani.
Symptom-free infected people as carriers
In the village of Vo’Euganeo with around 3,000 inhabitants, 50 km west of Venice, repeated RNA tests were carried out on the entire population after the appearance of the new corona virus. Given the results, Prof. Romagnani wrote an open letter to the authorities in the Tuscany region, stressing that the vast majority (50-75 percent) of people infected with Covid-19 were asymptomatic but were a significant source of infection.
Successful containment of the virus
Thanks to extensive corona tests and the isolation of all people with a positive result (quarantine), the number of people suffering from Covid 19 could be reduced from 88 to seven in less than ten days, reported Prof. Romagnani. "The percentage of those who are symptom-free is very high and (...) the isolation of asymptomatics is essential to control the spread of the virus and the severity of the epidemic," continued the professor of clinical immunology.
Medical personnel should be tested
The Italian doctor concludes that performing extensive tests to identify asymptomatic cases is an important step in containing Covid-19. Such tests are particularly important for healthcare personnel so that the virus is not passed on to colleagues or patients unwittingly. The new findings should now be put into practice.
At the moment, the medical staff in the Italian clinics are not tested if there are no symptoms, but this could be dangerous and the hospitals are at risk of becoming zones with high infection rates, so Prof. Therefore, the test should be expanded significantly and mandatory for that medical personnel, emphasizes Romagnani.
Lack of test capacity as a bottleneck?
However, in Germany there is currently more of a problem that the test capacities are already reaching their limits and it would therefore be difficult to implement even more extensive flat-rate tests. The extent to which the test capacity can be quickly increased in the coming weeks, so that the entire medical staff can also be regularly tested, remains open. However, in view of the findings from Italy, such a step seems urgently necessary. (fp)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters
- Michael Day: Covid-19: identifying and isolating asymptomatic people helped eliminate virus in Italian village; in: The BMJ (published March 24, 2020), BMJ