Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2020 Sep 28. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.20-0954. Online ahead of print.
There is no proven prognostic marker for patients hospitalized with COVID-19. We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 from March 14, 2020 to June 17, 2020, at São Paulo Hospital, in São Paulo, Brazil. SARS-CoV-2 viral load was assessed using the cycle threshold (Ct) values obtained from a reverse transcription-PCR assay applied to the nasopharyngeal swab samples. The reactions were performed following the CDC U.S. protocol targeting the N1 and N2 sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 nucleoprotein gene and human ribonuclease P gene serving as an endogenous control. Disease severity and patient outcomes were compared. Among 875 patients, 50.1% (439/875) were categorized as having mild disease (nonhospitalized patients), 30.4% (266/875) moderate (hospitalized in the ward), and 19.5% (170/875) severe disease (admitted to the intensive care unit). A Ct value of < 25 (472/875) indicated a high viral load, which was independently associated with mortality (odds ratio [OR]: 2.93; 95% CI: 1.87-4.60; P < 0.0001). We concluded that admission SARS-CoV-2 viral load was independently associated with mortality among patients hospitalized with COVID-19.