Understanding the epidemiological parameters that determine the transmission dynamics of COVID-19 is essential for public health intervention. Globally, a number of studies were conducted to estimate the average serial interval and incubation period of COVID-19. Combining findings of existing studies that estimate the average serial interval and incubation period of COVID-19 significantly improves the quality of evidence. Hence, this study by Alene, et al. (2021) aimed to determine the overall average serial interval and incubation period of COVID-19.
The researchers followed the PRISMA checklist to present this study. A comprehensive search strategy was carried out from international electronic databases (Google Scholar, PubMed, Science Direct, Web of Science, CINAHL, and Cochrane Library) by two experienced reviewers between June 1 and the July 31, 2020. All observational studies either reporting the serial interval or incubation period in persons diagnosed with COVID-19 were included in this study. Heterogeneity across studies was assessed using the I2 and Higgins test. The NOS adapted for cross-sectional studies was used to evaluate the quality of studies. A random effect Meta-analysis was employed to determine the pooled estimate with 95% (CI). Microsoft Excel was used for data extraction and R software was used for analysis.
The researchers combined a total of 23 studies to estimate the overall mean serial interval of COVID-19. The mean serial interval of COVID-19 ranged from 4. 2 to 7.5 days. Our meta-analysis showed that the weighted pooled mean serial interval of COVID-19 was 5.2 (95%CI: 4.9–5.5) days. Additionally, to pool the mean incubation period of COVID-19, they included 14 articles. The mean incubation period of COVID-19 also ranged from 4.8 to 9 days. Accordingly, the weighted pooled mean incubation period of COVID-19 was 6.5 (95%CI: 5.9–7.1) days.
The researchers conclude that this systematic review and meta-analysis showed that the weighted pooled mean serial interval and incubation period of COVID-19 were 5.2, and 6.5 days, respectively. In this study, the average serial interval of COVID-19 is shorter than the average incubation period, which suggests that substantial numbers of COVID-19 cases will be attributed to pre-symptomatic transmission.
Reference: Alene M, et al. Serial interval and incubation period of COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Infectious Diseases. Vol. 21, Article number 257. 2021.