Asymptomatic infections have been widely reported for COVID-19. However, many studies do not distinguish between the presymptomatic stage and truly asymptomatic infections. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of COVID-19 literature reporting laboratory-confirmed infections to determine the burden of asymptomatic infections and removed index cases from our calculations to avoid conflation. By analyzing over 350 papers, we estimated that more than one-third of infections are truly asymptomatic. We found evidence of greater asymptomaticity in children compared with the elderly, and lower asymptomaticity among cases with comorbidities compared to cases with no underlying medical conditions. Greater asymptomaticity at younger ages suggests that heightened vigilance is needed among these individuals, to prevent spillover into the broader community.
Author(s): Pratha Sah, Meagan C. Fitzpatrick, Charlotte F. Zimmer, Elaheh Abdollahi, Lyndon Juden-Kelly, Seyed M. Moghadas, Burton H. Singer, Alison P. Galvani
Publication Date: 24 August 2021
Publication Site: PNAS