SARS-CoV-2 Virus Culture and Subgenomic RNA for Respiratory Specimens from Patients with Mild Coronavirus Disease

Emerg Infect Dis. 2020 Nov;26(11):2701-2704. doi: 10.3201/eid2611.203219. Epub 2020 Aug 4.


We investigated 68 respiratory specimens from 35 coronavirus disease patients in Hong Kong, of whom 32 had mild disease. We found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 and subgenomic RNA were rarely detectable beyond 8 days after onset of illness. However, virus RNA was detectable for many weeks by reverse transcription PCR.

Keywords: COVID-19; China; Hong Kong; SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus; coronavirus disease; infectivity; mild disease; respiratory infections; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; subgenomic RNA; viral RNA load; virus culture; viruses; zoonoses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Betacoronavirus / genetics*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology*
  • Female
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology*
  • RNA, Viral / analysis*
  • Respiratory System / virology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Severity of Illness Index*


  • RNA, Viral