People with COVID-19 who don’t show symptoms tend to be younger and are more likely to be women, according to a small Chinese study.
Asymptomatic people also appear to experience less damage to their immune systems than symptomatic patients, the research from Wuhan University found.
The study compared COVID-19 positive patients who were asymptomatic with patients who displayed symptoms.
They found that asymptomatic people still shed the virus, albeit for a shorter period of time.
In asymptomatic cases, they also found a key immune cell was less activated, indicating damage to the immune system was milder.
The median age of asymptomatic patients was 37, and two in three were women, the study revealed.
The report warned that asymptomatic patients, although of little harm to themselves, could devastate the rest of the community.
“Although patients who were asymptomatic experienced less harm to themselves, they may have been unaware of their disease and therefore not isolated themselves or sought treatment, or they may have been overlooked by healthcare workers and thus unknowingly transmitted the virus to others,” it read.
“Fortunately, patients with asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection have a shorter duration of viral shedding from nasopharyngeal swabs and lower risk of a recurring positive test result of SARS-CoV-2 from nasopharyngeal swabs, which can provide a reference for improving the prevention and control strategies for patients who are asymptomatic.”
The new coronavirus has now infected more than 5.5 million people and killed more than 350,000 worldwide.
Recent studies suggest that the infection rate could be much higher, with as many as 80 per cent of those infected being ‘silent carriers,’ showing no or very mild symptoms.