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A new study notes that COVID-19, the virus that has caused the coronavirus pandemic, lives longer in patients who are sicker than those with milder cases, citing a higher viral load.
The research looked at 96 patients in a hospital in China's Zheijang province and found that the median time the virus lived in respiratory samples was 18 days.
"The duration of SARS-CoV-2 is significantly longer in stool samples than in respiratory and serum samples, highlighting the need to strengthen the management of stool samples in the prevention and control of the epidemic, and the virus persists longer with higher load and peaks later in the respiratory tissue of patients with severe disease," researchers wrote in the study.
A viral load is defined as the measurement of a virus in a bodily fluid, most often measured in virus particles per millimeters, depending upon where it is being measured.
Samples for the Zheijang-based study were tested from patients' noses, throats, blood and urine, as well as stool samples.
Previous studies, including this one, have warned that the SARS-CoV-2 could be transmitted via stool in infected people.
In addition, the researchers found that the virus affects men differently than women, noting "the duration of virus was significantly longer in men than in women."
"Our results shed light on the causes of disease severity in men in terms of the duration of the virus," the researchers added. "In addition to differences in immune status between men and women, it has also been reported to be related to differences in hormone levels."
Age was also a factor in the length of the duration of the virus, according to the study, which they said, "partly explains the high rate of severe illness in patients older than 60 years."
The study lasted in duration from January 19 and March 20, 2020 and is published in the scientific journal BMJ.
Currently, there is no known scientific cure for the disease known as COVID-19. However, there are several trials, including repurposed drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, currently underway.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 2.58 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, more than 825,000 of which are in the U.S., the most impacted country on the planet.