COVID-19 viral load may predict patient outcomes, study suggests

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who had a high viral load early in their illness were nearly twice as likely to die or be intubated, according to a study published in Annals of the American Thoracic Society. 

Researchers analyzed records from 314 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and viral pneumonia at New York City-based NYU Langone Medical Center between March 31 and April 10. Patients included in the study were tested upon arrival to the emergency room using polymerase chain reaction tests, which also indicate viral load. 

Patients were classified into three groups based on the amount of viral load detected: low, intermediate or high.

"High viral load was shown to be a predictor of poor outcomes above and beyond age, other medical problems and severity of illness on presentation, indicating that it can be used to risk-stratify, or triage, patients," Ioannis Zacharioudakis, MD, study author and infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone Health, said in a news release. 

Researchers also found that patients with comorbidities and transplant recipients were more likely to have higher viral loads at the time of hospital admission.

 

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