We already knew that Covid-19 was able to stay in the body for another five days after death. However, another more recent study claims that this same virus continues to replicate in the body for up to 35 hours after death.
In May 2020, forensic pathologists and pathologists from the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (Germany) claimed that SARS-CoV-2 is still present in body for about five days after death. The study in question had shown the presence of the virus in various organs such as the lungs, liver, pharynx, heart, as well as the kidneys. In addition, this work shed more light on the causes of death related to the coronavirus. Blood clots present in the pulmonary blood circulation are indeed here responsible for pulmonary embolism . Led by Axel Heinemann, the German researchers conducted a second study published in the journal Emerging Infectious diseases in January 2021. According to this new research, SARS-CoV-2 is still replicating in the throats of deceased patients, up to 35 hours after death.
These scientists performed autopsies of patients whose positive PCR test was performed between two and fourteen days before death . They took samples from the throat (nasopharyngeal tests) on no less than 79 bodies, on average 17 hours after death. According to the results, the RNA of SARS-CoV-2 is constantly present without the post-mortem duration having any influence on the level of the viral load . For the second part of the work, the researchers selected eleven bodies with a short post-mortem interval, that is to say the time between death and the moment when the body reaches 4°C. After performing nasopharyngeal tests, the researchers also detected consistent RNA levels. In the case of six patients , the virus even continued to replicate up to 35 hours after death.
The researchers explain that the coronavirus still remains infectious in patients over a fairly long period of time without the viral load dropping. In other words, Covid-19 can infect other individuals during the handling of bodies. Thus, they believe that it would be wise to set up a special protocol for the treatment of persons who have died after infection with the virus.
Let us nevertheless mention the limits of the study. First of all, it was based on a rather small sample. In addition, some patients had severe immunosuppression , yet unrelated to the coronavirus. This may have influenced the results. However, the researchers said they intend to carry out further work, this time in patients with lower viral loads.