Association of Initial Viral Load in Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Patients with Outcome and Symptoms

Am J Pathol. 2020 Jul 3;S0002-9440(20)30328-X. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2020.07.001. Online ahead of print.


The dynamics of viral load (VL) of the 2019 novel coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) and its association with different clinical parameters remain poorly characterized in the US patient population. Herein, we investigate associations between VL and parameters, such as severity of symptoms, disposition (admission versus direct discharge), length of hospitalization, admission to the intensive care unit, length of need for oxygen support, and overall survival in a cohort of 205 patients from a tertiary care center in New York City. VL was determined using quantitative PCR and log10 transformed for normalization. Univariate and multivariate regression models were used to test these associations. We found that diagnostic viral load is significantly lower in hospitalized patients than in patients not hospitalized (log10 VL = 3.3 versus 4.0; P = 0.018) after adjusting for age, sex, race, body mass index, and comorbidities. Higher VL was associated with shorter duration of the symptoms in all patients and hospitalized patients only and shorter hospital stay (coefficient = -2.02, -2.61, and -2.18; P < 0.001, P = 0.002, and P = 0.013, respectively). No significant association was noted between VL, admission to intensive care unit, length of oxygen support, and overall survival. Our findings suggest a higher shedding risk in less symptomatic patients, an important consideration for containment strategies in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Furthermore, we identify a novel association between viral load and history of cancer. Larger studies are warranted to validate our findings.