Poor oral hygiene could impact accuracy of COVID-19 tests

Poor oral hygiene could impact the accuracy of COVID-19 tests, a study has foundPoor oral hygiene could impact the accuracy of COVID-19 tests, a study has found. 

It found that patients with inadequate oral hygiene routines produced positive test results – despite their clinical recovery.

Clinical recovery was determined as returning to normal body temperature and termination of supportive oxygen inhalation.

As a result, researchers at a hospital in Tokyo, Japan, suggest oral hygiene could affect the accuracy of coronavirus testing.

Regular toothbrushing

Among the eight patients assessed, the average viral shedding period – the time from the onset of symptoms until the virus was undetectable – was found to be 15.1 days.

Reported symptoms included a fever, cough and diarrhoea.

However, for patients one and two, the viral shedding period continued for 53 and 44 days. For the patients three to eight, two negative tests were confirmed within 18 days of clinical recovery.

The team found that patients three to eight had adequately maintained their hygiene routines, which included regular toothbrushing.

In contrast, patients one and two – who had mental or psychiatric disorders – did not voluntarily brush their teeth in hospital. But once asked to practise regular gargling and toothbrushing, both patients produced a negative test result within four to nine days.

Hygiene improves accuracy

The researchers concluded: ‘In this study, six of the eight patients with mild to moderate COVID‐19 had a viral shedding period of 30 days or less.

‘But two patients had significantly longer shedding periods. In such prolonged viral shedding cases, noninfectious viral nucleic acid may accumulate in an uncleaned oral cavity and may continue to be detected by PCR.

‘We propose tooth brushing and gargling to remove accumulated noninfectious viral nucleic acid, leading to consistently negative PCR test results. Thus avoiding unnecessarily long hospital stays.’

By concluding that appropriate oral hygiene care may decrease the viral shedding period, the team suggested it could help to prevent unnecessarily long hospital stays.

You can read the full study here.

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