Optimal sampling, preservation, and culturing of SARS-CoV-2 from COVID-19 patients are critical for successful recovery of virus isolates and to accurately estimate contagiousness of the patient. In this study, we investigated the influence of the type of sampling media, storage time, freezing conditions, sterile filtration, and combinations of these to determine the optimal pre-analytic conditions for virus recovery and estimation of infectious viral load in COVID-19 patients. Further, we investigated the viral shedding kinetics and mucosal antibody response in 38 COVID-19 hospitalized patients. We found Universal Transport Medium (Copan) to be the most optimal medium for preservation of SARS-CoV-2 infectivity. Our data showed that the probability of a positive viral culture was strongly correlated to Ct values, however some samples did not follow the general trend. We found a significant correlation between plaque forming units and levels of mucosal antibodies and found that high levels of mucosal antibodies correlated with reduced chance of isolating the virus. Our data reveals essential parameters to consider from specimen collection over storage to culturing technique for optimal chance of isolating SARS-CoV-2 and accurately estimating patient contagiousness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114912
JournalJournal of Virological Methods
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Contagiousness
  • COVID-19
  • Plaque assay
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Viral culture
  • Viral quantification


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