I know that RT-PCR testing can detect coronavirus in symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers.

I was wondering whether a presymptomatic carrier (I don't know if the terminology is correct, but I mean someone for which the virus is in the 'incubation period') would test positive with RT PCR testing ?

Sorry if this is off-topic, I haven't been able to find answers on the internet.

  • What leads you to believe that someone who carries the virus but shows no symptoms yet is different from someone who carries the virus and never shows symptoms? Questions here are required to demonstrate some degree of prior research, so a good place to start would be editing your question and showing what led you to that idea.
    – Carey Gregory
    Aug 11, 2020 at 3:08
  • Being a layman in the field the research I can do is limited besides googling. This question came to me simply because in the literature I have skimmed there seem to be a distinction between 'presymptomatic' and 'asymptomatic' individuals. Of course I don't know if there is an underlying difference in the underlying development of the virus (I would assume not, but then why make the difference in the literature?). Same goes for the incubation period, if someone is asymptomatic, the virus never left the incubation period technically ? I can add those remarks to the question, if it helps.
    – Frotaur
    Aug 11, 2020 at 11:36
  • 1
    We don't require questions to demonstrate a professional level of research; a link to an example where they distinguish between presymptomatic and asymptomatic would be sufficient
    – Carey Gregory
    Aug 11, 2020 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


Presymptomatic patients with coronavirus may test positive with RT PCR (see: Kim, Jeong et al. Viral kinetics of SARS-CoV-2 in asymptomatic carriers and presymptomatic patients. Int J Inf Dis Vol.95, P441-443, June 01, 2020.) Presymptomatic patients may also be infectious (see: Bai Y, Yao L, Wei T, et al. Presumed Asymptomatic Carrier Transmission of COVID-19. JAMA. 2020;323(14):1406–1407. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.2565)

I hope this answers your question. Best regards

  • Thank you, this does seem relevant, I will take a look as soon as I have the time
    – Frotaur
    Aug 11, 2020 at 11:46

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