Patients with cancer may be at increased risk of severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but the role of viral load on this risk is unknown. We measured SARS-CoV-2 viral load using cycle threshold (CT) values from reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction assays applied to nasopharyngeal swab specimens in 100 patients with cancer and 2,914 without cancer who were admitted to three New York City hospitals. Overall, the in-hospital mortality rate was 38.8% among patients with a high viral load, 24.1% among patients with a medium viral load, and 15.3% among patients with a low viral load (p < 0.001). Similar findings were observed in patients with cancer (high, 45.2% mortality; medium, 28.0%; low, 12.1%; p = 0.008). Patients with hematologic malignancies had higher median viral loads (CT = 25.0) than patients without cancer (CT = 29.2; p = 0.0039). SARS-CoV-2 viral load results may offer vital prognostic information for patients with and without cancer who are hospitalized with COVID-19.
Keywords: cancer; coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); cycle threshold (C(T)); hematologic malignancy; mortality; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2); solid tumor; viral load.
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