The association between real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction cycle threshold values, symptoms and disease severity among COVID-19 patients in the community: a retrospective cohort study

Maya Makov-Assif, Sydney Krispin, Yatir Ben-Shlomo, Tal Holander, Noa Dagan, Ran Balicer, Noam Barda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world. Real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is used to diagnose COVID-19, with its cycle threshold (Ct) value inversely related to the viral load. The association between Ct values and COVID-19 related outcomes has been studied in the hospital setting but less so in the community. We aimed to estimate the association between Ct values and the severity of community-diagnosed COVID-19 to provide evidence on the utility of Ct testing in this setting. Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study based on data from Israel’s largest health organization. The study population included 34,658 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 by RT-PCR and had available Ct values between June 1st and December 21st, 2020. Outcomes included COVID-19 related symptoms, hospitalization, severe disease, and death. Ct values were modelled both as discrete and continuous exposures. Results: After adjusting for known risk factors for severe COVID-19, low Ct values were associated with symptomatic disease (odds ratio [OR]: 1.51; 95% confidence interval [CI]:1.21–1.84), hospitalization (OR: 1.27; 95%CI: 1.12–1.49), severe disease (OR: 1.80; 95%CI: 1.43–2.27), and death (OR: 1.64; 95%CI: 1.06–2.59). By modelling the exposure as continuous, we noticed a dose-response relationship, with the risk gradually rising with lower Ct values. Conclusions: This study found a significant association between low Ct values and severe COVID-19 related outcomes, with a dose-response relationship. This suggests that Ct values could be helpful in identifying high-risk patients diagnosed in the community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-212
Number of pages8
JournalInfectious Diseases
Volume54
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • RT-PCR
  • community
  • cycle threshold
  • severe COVID-19

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • General Immunology and Microbiology

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