Contrasting SARS-CoV-2 RNA copies and clinical symptoms in a large cohort of Colombian patients during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

Santiago A. Quiroga, Carolina Hernández, Sergio Castañeda, Paula Jimenez, Laura Vega, Marcela Gomez, David Martinez, Nathalia Ballesteros, Marina Muñoz, Claudia Cifuentes, Nathalia Sierra, Carolina Flórez, Alberto Paniz-Mondolfi, Juan David Ramírez

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10 Scopus citations


Background: There is limited and controverting evidence looking at possible associations of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA copies and patient variables in large cohorts of symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. Methods: We studied 2275 symptomatic and asymptomatic patients from Colombia with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and analyzed the associations between RT-PCR cycle threshold (Ct) value with gender, age, comorbidities, symptomatology, and disease severity. Results: 15.4 % of the samples (n = 428) reported at least one comorbidity. There were 2011 symptomatic cases (72.4 %), being the most common reported symptom cough (57.2 %, n = 1586). Respiratory distress was present in 21.4 % of patients (n = 595), and 435 patients (15.6 %) required hospital admission. We observed that patients with no prior medical history harbored higher RNA copies than patients with comorbidities (p = 0.02). No significant differences in RNA copies were observed between symptomatic and asymptomatic patients (p = 0.82). Strong correlations were detected between Ct values and the presence of odynophagia (p = 0.03), diarrhea (p = 0.04), and headache (p = 0.0008). An inverse association was found between RNA copy number and markers of disease severity, namely, respiratory distress (P < 0.0001) and hospitalization requirement (P < 0.0001). Conclusions: SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR cycle thresholds reveal strong associations with a prior medical history, specific symptomatology, and disease severity markers. Further research controlling potential confounding variables needs to be conducted to evaluate the nature and usefulness of these associations in managing COVID-19 patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number39
JournalAnnals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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