Covid can be trapped by EMPTY for up to 17 days, scientists warn
- Scientists from Japan found coronavirus in the nose and lungs of human cadavers
- Hamsters carried traces of the virus postmortem and spread it to live hamsters
- Evidence of infectious viruses was found in corpses up to 17 days later
Covid could potentially spread from corpses to the living in a zombie-like way, two new studies suggest.
Scientists in Japan found traces of the coronavirus in the nasal passages and lungs of recently deceased human and hamster corpses up to 17 days after death.
They warned that while the risk of cadaver transmission to the general public is low – mostly limited to coroners, pathologists and medical staff – those people and grieving families should be cautious.
“It is possible that infectious viruses are transmitted via the post-mortem gases produced by the decomposition process or other post-mortem changes in the dead body,” write the authors of one of the studies.
In a study on rodents, researchers infected a group of hamsters with the coronavirus and killed them 24 to 48 hours later.
Their bodies were then disinfected in an alcohol bath for 30 seconds and wrapped in wire mesh to prevent them from being cannibalized by live hamsters in the same cage.
They divided the hamsters into two groups. In one cage they put a wrapped body and two uninfected hamsters, and in the other cage they put together a live infected hamster and two uninfected hamsters.
Twenty-four hours later, they found high titers, or residual antibodies from the infection, in the lungs and noses of the live hamsters.
Covid was transmitted by all living infected hamsters in both housing conditions, while the dead infected hamsters retained high levels of virus in their lungs and noses 24 hours after death.
It has also been noted that a traditional Japanese burial method, which involves using cotton swabs to plug the corpse’s nostrils, mouth, ears, and rectum, trapping the gases that escape naturally when a person dies, a transmission prevented.
The custom called Angel Care effectively prevented transmission from a dead hamster.
In the human study, the Japanese scientists collected eight nasal swabs and eleven lung samples from eleven autopsy cases with Covid in 2021 and examined the genetic makeup of the virus strains.
Mounting evidence shows that the coronavirus can remain in the body of the deceased for up to 17 days after death and can even transmit the virus to the living
Hamsters were euthanized 24 or 48 hours after infection, disinfected and housed with live hamsters. High virus titers remained in the lungs and noses of the dead hamsters 24 hours after death
Can you get infected with Covid-19 from a dead body?
Japanese scientists investigated this question and concluded that it is possible.
In one study, researchers infected a group of hamsters with the coronavirus and killed them 24 to 48 hours later.
They placed both infected and uninfected dead hamsters in the same cages as live hamsters. The infection was found in the lungs and nose of the live hamsters.
The dead infected hamsters retained high levels of virus in their lungs and noses 24 hours after death.
In another study using human cadavers, scientists collected eight nasal swabs and 11 lung samples from 11 autopsy cases with Covid.
The virus was present up to 13 days postmortem in six of the 11 cases.
Their results showed the virus was present in six of the 11 cases. Four of those 11 cases were found by nasal swabs, while nine of 19 lung samples showed evidence of the virus up to 13 days after death.
“Therefore, proper infection control measures must be taken when handling cadavers,” they concluded.
Japan’s Health Ministry decided this week to roll back pandemic-era burial restrictions that asked bereaved family members who had close contacts with the deceased not to touch or look at the bodies or even attend their funerals, giving many families the opportunity was taken for a final goodbye.
The ministry said the guidelines set in July 2020 should be lifted by the end of the year.
This isn’t the first time scientists have discovered that corpses retain traces of infectious diseases and can potentially transmit them to others.
A 2021 study found that despite already showing signs of decomposition, the infectious virus was still present in one of the COVID-19 corpses 17 days after death.
Meanwhile, a 2020 study from Thailand reported that a person working on cadavers who died of Covid-19 in a forensic medical unit became infected soon after.