Updates on COVID-19 biology and diagnostics

Speaker: Giuseppe LIPPI (IT)
Moderator: Daniel Rajdl (CZ)
Date: 28th May 2020

ABSTRACT : The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a pandemic infectious disease sustained by a member of the Coronaviridae family, finally called acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The human-to-human transmission is principally conveyed by droplets or physical contact with infected biological material. The range of clinical pictures is quite heterogeneous, with the vast majority of patients being asymptomatic or only experiencing mild respiratory symptoms. Nevertheless, in nearly 15% and 5% of all patients COVID-19 may progress towards severe or even critical illness, requiring sub-intensive or intensive care. The current death rate is comprised between 6-7%, but is highly variable worldwide depending on genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors. The etiological diagnosis of COVID-19 is, and will remain for long based on direct identification of viral RNA using molecular biology techniques in respiratory tracts samples (especially naso- and oro-pharyngeal swabs). Serological testing has also been recently developed, thus allowing to recognize that most COVID-19 patients develop an immune response against the virus, especially characterized by appearance of IgG and IgA anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulins one to two weeks after symptoms onset. The availability of rapid tests for detecting either viral antigens or anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies has also recently emerged as a valid opportunity for epidemiologic surveillance, though a number of clear quality criteria will need to be fulfilled before any commercially available assay could be safely introduced into clinical practice.