Though asymptomatic carriage of SARS-CoV-2 is a potentially significant source of transmission, it remains relatively poorly understood, according to researchers from Glasgow, Scotland, who investigated the virus’ infection in asymptomatic dental patients to inform community surveillance and improve understanding of risks in the dental setting.
Thirty-one dental care centers across Scotland invited asymptomatic screened patients over the age of five to participate. During the patient visit, trained dental teams took a combined oropharyngeal and nasal swab sample using standardized viral transport medium-containing test kits.
Over a 13-week period, 4,032 patients were tested, and 22 tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The positivity rate increased over the period, commensurate with an uptick in community prevalence identified across all national testing monitoring data streams. The positivity rate in this patient group reflected the underlying prevalence in the community at the time.
This surveillance program had several advantages, the researchers said, including using trained dental teams for the collection of high-quality and complete data and samples. Also, there was no need for the clinical teams to use additional personal protective equipment since they were already wearing it to provide dental care and the patients could receive care despite periods of lockdown restriction.
“Enhanced community surveillance is a key pillar of the public health response to COVID-19. The results of this study demonstrate the value in, and feasibility of, developing and implementing SARS-CoV-2 surveillance testing within dental settings,” said Nicholas Jakubovics, editor in chief of the Journal of Dental Research, which published the study.
“These data are also a salient reminder of the importance of appropriate ongoing infection prevention control and personal protective equipment vigilance,” Jakubovics said.