Quantitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in nasopharyngeal samples from infected patients with mild disease
J. med. virol
Diagnosis of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) cases is based on the count of real-time reverse transcription-plymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) positive people. Viral load by real-time RT-PCR has been suggested as a biomarker of the SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, the association of viral load and severity of the disease is not yet resolved. Nasopharyngeal samples from 458 patients were tested by RT-PCR for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis. Relative quantitation was made by the comparative threshold cycle (ΔΔCt ) formula between ORF1ab viral and RNase P housekeeping genes. Absolute viral load was calculate using a reference positive control. Most prevalent clinical signs were cough (75.8%), myalgia (66.7%), and fever (48.5%). Hypertension (18.2%), neurological diseases (15.1%), and asthma and hypothyroidism (12.1%) were most frequent comorbidities. Fever, either as an exclusive symptom or combined with others, was associated with high viral loads ( 2 - ∆ ∆ C t range, 35.65-155.16; 4.25-4.89 log10 RNA copies/test]). During the first week after onset of symptoms in mild patients up to 60 years-old was detected the peak of viral load. Children under 10 years old have a high viral load (313.84; 2.50) in the first 2 days postinfection with a sharp decline thereafter. Cases between 10 and 49 years old mostly showed low and moderate viral load during the first 2 days postinfection (range, 0.03 to 17.24; -1.50 to 1.24). Patients over 60 years old have high viral load up to the second week after the onset of symptoms (range, 25.32-155.42; 1.40-2.19), indicating the longer presence of the virus in them. These findings suggest the viral load in nasopharyngeal swabs would help to monitor the SARS-CoV-2 infection in mild coronavirus disease 2019 cases.