Publication date: Jul 01, 2023
The optimal isolation duration for patients with COVID-19 remains unclear. To support an update of World Health Organization (WHO)’s Living Clinical management guidelines for COVID-19 (https://www. who. int/publications/i/item/WHO-2019-nCoV-clinical-2022. 2), this rapid systematic review and modelling study addresses the effects of different isolation periods for preventing onward transmission leading to hospitalisation and death among secondary cases. We searched the WHO COVID-19 database for studies up to Feb 27, 2023. We included clinical studies of any design with COVID-19 patients confirmed by PCR test or rapid antigen test addressing the impact of any isolation strategy on preventing the spread of COVID-19. There were no restrictions on publication language, publication status, age of patients, severity of COVID-19, variants of SARS-COV-2, comorbidity of patients, isolation location, or co-interventions. We performed random-effects meta-analyses to summarise testing rates of persistent test positivity rates after COVID-19 infection. We performed pre-specified subgroup analyses by symptom status and meta-regression analyses for the proportion of fully vaccinated patients. We developed a model to compare the effects of three isolation strategies on onward transmission leading to hospitalisation and death. The three isolation strategies were (1) 5-day isolation, with no test to release; (2) removal of isolation based on a negative test; and (3) 10-day isolation, with no test to release. The model incorporates estimates of test positivity rates, effective reproduction number, isolation adherence, false negative rate, and hospitalisation rates or case fatality rates. To assess the impact of varying isolation adherence and false negative rates on rapid antigen testing, we conducted some sensitivity analyses. We used the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach to assess certainty of evidence. The protocol is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42022348626). Fifteen studies addressing persistent test positivity rates including 4188 patients proved eligible. Asymptomatic patients (27. 1%, 95% CI: 15. 8%-40. 0%) had a significantly lower rapid antigen test positive rate than symptomatic patients (68. 1%, 95% CI: 40. 6%-90. 3%) on day 5. The rapid antigen test positive rate was 21. 5% (95% CI: 0-64. 1%; moderate certainty) on day 10. Our modelling study suggested that the risk difference (RD) for asymptomatic patients between 5-day isolation and 10-day isolation in hospitalisations (23 more hospitalisations of secondary cases per 10,000 patients isolated, 95% uncertainty interval (UI) 14 more to 33 more) and mortality (5 more per 10,000 patients, 95% UI 1 to 9 more) of secondary cases proved very small (very low certainty). For symptomatic patients, the potential impact of 5- versus 10-day isolation was much greater in hospitalisations (RD 186 more per 10,000 patients, 95% UI 113 more to 276 more; very low certainty) and mortality (RD 41 more per 10,000 patients, 95% UI 11 more to 73 more; very low certainty). There may be little or no difference between removing isolation based on a negative antigen test and 10-day isolation in the onward transmission leading to hospitalisation or death, but the average isolation period (mean difference -3 days) will be shorter for the removal of isolation based on a negative antigen test (moderate certainty). 5 days versus 10 days of isolation in asymptomatic patients may result in a small amount of onward transmission and negligible hospitalisation and mortality; however, in symptomatic patients, the level of onward transmission is concerning and may lead to high hospitalisation and death rates. The evidence is, however, very uncertain. This work was done in collaboration with WHO.
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