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Volume 28, Number 1—January 2022
Research Letter

Postmortem Antigen-Detecting Rapid Diagnostic Tests to Predict Infectivity of SARS-CoV-2–Associated Deaths

Fabian HeinrichComments to Author , Ann Sophie Schröder, Anna-Lina Gerberding, Moritz Gerling, Felicia Langenwalder, Philine Lange, Axel Heinemann, Eric Bibiza-Freiwald, Dominik Sebastian Nörz, Martin Aepfelbacher, Susanne Pfefferle1Comments to Author , Benjamin Ondruschka1, and Marc Lütgehetmann1
Author affiliation: University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany

Main Article


Baseline characteristics of corpses received by the Institute of Legal Medicine, Hamburg, Germany, 2020–2021*

Characteristic SARS-CoV-2 RNA positive,† 
n = 128 SARS-CoV-2 RNA negative,† n = 72 Total, n = 200
Age, y, median (IQR)
83.5 (71.5–89.1)
81.0 (73.0–87.0)
82.3 (72.9–88.5)
M 71 (55.5) 36 (50.0) 107 (53.5)
57 (44.5)
36 (50.0)
93 (46.5)
Place of death
Home 28 (22.0) 30 (41.7) 58 (29.1)
Nursing home 38 (29.9) 3 (4.2) 41 (20.6)
Hospital 39 (30.7) 25 (34.7) 64 (32.2)
ICU 20 (15.7) 10 (13.9) 30 (15.1)
2 (1.6)
4 (5.6)
6 (3.0)
Postmortem interval,‡ h, median (IQR)
8.7 (5.3–82.6)
4.9 (3.5–8.8)
7.0 (4.3–49.9)
Putrefactive changes
11 (8.9)
1 (1.4)
12 (6.1)
SARS-CoV-2 RNA load,¶ copies/mL, median (IQR) 7.0 x 106 (5.5 × 104–5.2 x 107) Below LOD Not applicable

*Values are no. (%) except as indicated. In case of missing data points, valid percentages are indicated. ICU, Intensive care unit; LOD, limit of detection; SARS-CoV-2, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 †B.1.1.7 variants (2/128) identified by multiplex-typing PCR (5). SARS-CoV-2–associated deaths were tested in a multiplex typing PCR for SARS-CoV-2 spike variants. ‡Interval from time of death until initial sampling and cooling at 4°C.

Main Article

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Main Article

1These senior authors contributed equally to this article.

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Page updated: December 20, 2021
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