REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202006.0284.v1
Subject: Medicine & Pharmacology, General Medical Research Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; RT-PCR; antibody; zoonotic; animal transmission; genomics; asymptomatic fraction; herd immunity
Online: 23 June 2020 (13:30:11 CEST)
Since December 2019, a rapid increase in the number of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) cases was reported worldwide, despite strict infection control and lock down measures. Current paper investigated the actual facts behind this rapid increase in the number of cases. Study of genomic sequence reveals that domestic and wild animals were likely ancestors and zoonotic source for SARS-CoVs, MERS-CoVs, and SARS-CoV-2. Strong evidence suggest that these viruses already existed and replicated in animals and humans during past several decades, exhibiting diverse mutations, evolutions and self-limiting diseases, except during outbreaks. Serious zoonotic reservoir investigations are required to investigate animal transmission of SARS-CoVs and SARS-CoV-2 to limit current pandemic. This might be the reason of increasing number of cases via animals. SARS-CoV-2 has been retrospectively isolated in different studies in August 2019, several months before Wuhan announced. Hence, there is a possibility that viruses existed, went undetected, infecting subclinically, in past several years, and SARS-CoV-2 antigens and neutralizing antibodies may have been present in humans since long time. This might be another reason of increasing number of cases by screening as mass screening and antigen or antibody testing was not carried out in the past years. Randomized controlled trials are required to investigate human to human transmission by touch, as the current evidence is limited with conflicting results. As all SARS-CoVs are basically respiratory viruses, droplet precautions and infection control measures are essential, especially for hospital staff. Increased number of SARS-CoV-2 asymptomatic, or subclinical cases are detected worldwide. This silent phase of transmission can be beneficial for humans. Lack of symptoms eventually lessen virus transmission and reduce the pathogen's long-term survival and provide humoral herd immunity up to several years. Hence, seropositivity with diverse antibodies develops against mutating SARS-CoVs which will confer strong immunity during epidemics. Strategies such as identification, contact tracing and quarantine are costly and practically difficult. Hence, asymptomatic persons can continue their work with droplet precautions and standard infection control procedures, while symptomatic or sick persons can isolate themselves in their homes without the need for strict quarantine until clinical recovery, with reduced hospital visits and minimizing chances of hospital acquired infections. RT-PCR has low sensitivity and specificity, carries a high risk of handling live virus antigens, and requires difficult protocols. As viral load also sharply declines after few days of onset of infection, this technique might overlook infection. Furthermore, SARS-CoV-2 infection may be present in blood when oropharyngeal swabs are negative by RT-PCR. Additionally, RT-PCR usually gives false negative and false positive results and must be interpreted cautiously. This might be again a reason of increasing number of cases by false positive RT-PCR reporting. Moreover, antibodies against SARS-CoVs develop robustly in serum even by reduced amount of antigens. In contrast to RT-PCR, ELISA for diagnosing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 demonstrates 100% specificity and 100% sensitivity, even in clinically asymptomatic individuals. These antibodies can be used for serologic surveys, monitoring and screening. However, screening tests for SARS-COV-2 should be avoided in unhygienic public places by nasopharyngeal swabs, which carry a high risk of further transmission, co-infection or superinfection. Such highly infectious virus must be isolated and tested in highly sterilized laboratory. Further strict international laws and policies are required to stop the possible spread of experimental viruses, biological warfare and bioterrorism.