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Duration of viable virus shedding in SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant infection

Clinical features of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant infection, including incubation period and transmission rates, distinguish this variant from preceding variants. However, whether the duration of shedding of viable virus differs between omicron and previous variants is not well understood. To characterize how variant and vaccination status impact shedding of viable virus, we serially sampled symptomatic outpatients newly diagnosed with COVID-19. Anterior nasal swabs were tested for viral load, sequencing, and viral culture. Time to PCR conversion was similar between individuals infected with the Delta and the Omicron variant. Time to culture conversion was also similar, with a median time to culture conversion of 6 days (interquartile range 4-8 days) in both groups. There were also no differences in time to PCR or culture conversion by vaccination status.

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