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Coronavirus pandemic | Research suggests asymptomatic people may be spreading Covid-19

This differs from unreported cases as majority of the countries have so far carried out tests for those showing symptoms

March 24, 2020 / 09:26 AM IST
Representative Image

Representative Image


Six in 10 people infected with the coronavirus may reportedly be asymptomatic — which means they do not yet display symptoms of the disease and are hence unaware they have it.

Several studies on the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have substantiated this finding, making scientists push for stringent social distancing measures, the World Economic Forum (WEF) reported.

The spread, termed as community transmission, has given proof that many infected people have not had contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19 but have still caught the virus, as per an article in the science journal Nature.

Head researcher Wu Tangchun, a public health expert at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, said at least 59 percent of infected individuals moved around without being tested and potentially infecting others. This also explains how the virus spread at such a large scale, he added.

This research used latest data of compiled clinical information from 26,000 laboratories which reported to the Wuhan health commission and raises questions on a February report by the World Health Organisation-China joint mission which noted that 'the proportion of truly asymptomatic infections is unclear but appears to be relatively rare and does not appear to be a major driver of transmission'.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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This differs from unreported cases as a majority of the countries have so far carried out tests for those showing symptoms. For example, Wuhan had as many as 37,000 asymptomatic people, who were under the radar, research showed.

Further supporting the findings, Iceland — which has tested more inhabitants than most countries, has found that half of those who tested positive were asymptomatic, the report added.

As many as 18 percent people from the 700 who tested positive aboard the Diamond Princess were also asymptomatic. Among the 565 Japanese nationals evacuated from Wuhan in February, 31 percent never developed symptoms but tested positive.
Moneycontrol News
first published: Mar 24, 2020 09:15 am

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