Immune-Suppressed Patients May Carry COVID Longer
- Current CDC guidelines say immune-suppressed people who have COVID-19 are not likely to be contagious after 20 days.
- A new study says this type of patient could possibly carry the virus for more than 60 days.
- Immune-supressed cancer patients who get COVID-19 may need to isolate longer than others.
Immunocompromised Patients with COVID-19 May Be Contagious LongerFor the study, researchers tracked 20 immunocompromised cancer patients who tested positive for COVID-19. They took repeated nasal swabs from the group. Out of the 20 patients, three continued to shed detectable virus for 25 days or more. One of those three was still shedding virus at 61 days. But how could the virus stick around for so long in immunocompromised people?
"The immune system of these patients is not functioning at full force because of either their disease or their treatment, which results in an inability of the body to clear the virus," Babady says.
These three patients had either a stem cell transplant or CAR T-cell therapy before they got COVID-19. Both of these treatments can weaken the immune system. Two of the patients had severe cases of COVID-19. Among all 20 patients, 11 had severe COVID cases a result that tracked with previous research by Babady and her colleagues.
"We have shown in other studies that COVID-19 in patients with cancer may increase the risk for hospitalization and severe outcomes," she explains.
What If You’re on Immune-Suppressing Cancer Treatments?
Current CDC guidelines say that immunocompromised people are not likely to be contagious for more than 20 days after their symptoms start. But this study suggests that it's possible.
If you are receiving immune-suppressing treatments for cancer, these study results underscore the importance of avoiding COVID-19 in the first place. Follow all federal guidelines, which include wearing a mask in public, avoiding large gatherings or crowds, staying six feet away from others, and washing your hands frequently.
If you do get the coronavirus, this study suggests that it's not safe to assume you are no longer carrying the virus just because 14 days have passed. You may need to isolate longer and confirm you’re clear with a negative test result.