Viral and Symptom Rebound in Untreated COVID-19 Infection

medRxiv. 2022 Aug 2;2022.08.01.22278278. doi: 10.1101/2022.08.01.22278278. Preprint


Background: There are reports of viral RNA and symptom rebound in people with COVID-19 treated with nirmatrelvir/ritonavir. Since the natural course of viral and symptom trajectories of COVID-19 has not been well described, we evaluated the incidence of viral and symptom rebound in untreated outpatients with mild-moderate COVID-19.

Methods: The study population included 568 participants enrolled in the ACTIV-2/A5401 platform trial who received placebo. Anterior nasal swabs were collected for SARS-CoV-2 RNA testing on days 0-14, 21 and 28. Participants recorded the severity of 13 targeted symptoms daily from day 0 to 28. Viral rebound was defined as ≥0.5 log10 viral RNA copies/mL increase and symptom rebound was defined as a 4-point total symptom score increase from baseline. Baseline was defined as study day 4 (primary analysis) or 8 days from symptom onset (secondary analysis).

Findings: In both the primary and secondary analyses, 12% of participants had viral rebound. Viral rebounders were older than non-rebounders (median 54 vs 47 years, P=0.04). Symptom rebound occurred in 27% of participants after initial symptom improvement and in 10% of participants after initial symptom resolution. The combination of high-level viral rebound to ≥5.0 log10 RNA copies/mL and symptom rebound after initial improvement was observed in 1-2% of participants.

Interpretation: Viral RNA rebound or symptom relapse in the absence of antiviral treatment is common, but the combination of high-level viral and symptom rebound is rare.

Keywords: COVID-19; Paxlovid; symptom rebound; viral rebound.

Publication types

  • Preprint