Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is pandemic. Prevention and control strategies require an improved understanding of SARS-CoV-2 dynamics. We did a rapid review of the literature on SARS-CoV-2 viral dynamics with a focus on infective dose. We sought comparisons of SARS-CoV-2 with other respiratory viruses including SARS-CoV-1 and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. We examined laboratory animal and human studies. The literature on infective dose, transmission and routes of exposure was limited specially in humans, and varying endpoints were used for measurement of infection. Despite variability in animal studies, there was some evidence that increased dose at exposure correlated with higher viral load clinically, and severe symptoms. Higher viral load measures did not reflect coronavirus disease 2019 severity. Aerosol transmission seemed to raise the risk of more severe respiratory complications in animals. An accurate quantitative estimate of the infective dose of SARS-CoV-2 in humans is not currently feasible and needs further research. Our review suggests that it is small, perhaps about 100 particles. Further work is also required on the relationship between routes of transmission, infective dose, co-infection and outcomes.


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Karimzadeh, S., Bhopal, R. & Nguyen Tien, H. 2021, 'Review of infective dose, routes of transmission and outcome of COVID-19 caused by the SARS-COV-2: comparison with other respiratory viruses', Epidemiology and Infection, 149, pp. e96 -. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0950268821000790

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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