Computers require time in isolation

Kyoto – Around the world, many people infected with Covid-19 have been forced to completely isolate themselves from others in order to avoid transmitting the infection. Some countries still recommend minimum isolation periods of up to 10 days from when patients begin to develop symptoms of Covid-19.

Professor Shingo Iwami, affiliated with Kyoto University’s Mathematical Biology Laboratory at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Biology (WPI-ASHBi), says: “Although a long period of isolation reduces the risk overall transmission of infection by patients, there will always be patients who recover early and have to accept several redundant days of isolation while no longer presenting a risk of infection. We would like to calculate a way to reduce these unnecessary disruptions to people’s lives as well as the wider losses to the economy.

Writing in the journal Nature Communications, an international team of scientists, led by Iwami, reported a simulation of the potential risks and benefits of ending an individual’s isolation early by using antigen testing instead of isolating patients. for a fixed period. They call for more sensitive and regular antigen testing to help reduce periods of isolation for patients recovering from Covid-19.

The team decided to base their model on antigens rather than PCR tests, trading sensitivity for short turnaround time, low cost and convenience. Iwami explains that although antigen tests carry a risk of generating “false negatives” and failing to detect individuals who may still be infectious, there are clear advantages to obtaining results within an hour rather than wait a day.

Their model takes into account the sensitivity of antigen tests as well as factors such as the amount of virus in a patient that makes them infectious. These are then weighed against the acceptable risk of missing unrecovered and potentially infectious patients, letting them out of isolation early.

Using their model, the team compared different scenarios to identify the best strategy. For example, the model predicts that letting a recovering patient leave isolation after 2 consecutive negative results on 2 consecutive days would spend 3.9 days of redundant isolation after recovery. But under these conditions, 1 in 40 patients would continue to be at risk of infection.

More conservative approaches could increase patient burden by requiring more than 2 consecutive negative antigen test results.

Iwami says: “The epidemic has not completely disappeared yet and we live in great uncertainty regarding new variants of the virus. Antigen testing could be helpful, but there is also a real need for systematic global guidelines that simultaneously reduce risks and burdens. We hope this simulator will help physicians and policy makers meet these demands. »

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