• Detection and kinetics of subgenomic SARS-CoV-2 RNA viral load in longitudinal diagnostic RNA positive samples.

      Deming, Meagan E; Dong, Tracy Q; Agrawal, Vaidehi; Mills, Margaret G; Huang, Meei-Li W; Greninger, Alexander L; Jerome, Keith R; Wener, Mark H; Paasche-Orlow, Michael K; Kissinger, Patricia; et al. (Oxford University Press, 2022-02-12)
      While detection of SARS-CoV-2 by diagnostic RT-PCR is highly sensitive for viral RNA, the nucleic acid amplification of subgenomic RNAs (sgRNA) that are the product of viral replication may more accurately identify replication. We characterized the diagnostic RT-PCR and sgRNA detection from nasal swabs collected daily by participants in post exposure prophylaxis or treatment studies for SARS-CoV-2. Among 1932 RT-PCR-positive swabs with sgRNA tests, 40% (767) had detectable sgRNA. Above a diagnostic PCR viral load threshold of 5.1 log10 copies/mL, 96% of samples had detectable sgRNA with viral loads that followed a linear trend. The trajectories of diagnostic and sgRNA viral loads differed, with 80% peaking on the same day but duration of sgRNA detection being shorter (8 versus 14 days). With a large sample of daily swabs we provide comparative sgRNA kinetics and a diagnostic PCR threshold that correlates with replicating virus independent of symptoms or duration of illness.
    • Self-Assessed Severity as a Determinant of COVID-19 Symptom Specificity: A Longitudinal Cohort Study.

      Bershteyn, Anna; Dahl, Angela M; Dong, Tracy Q; Deming, Meagan E; Celum, Connie L; Chu, Helen Y; Kottkamp, Angelica C; Greninger, Alexander L; Hoffman, Risa M; Jerome, Keith R; et al. (Oxford University Press, 2022-02-13)
      COVID-19 symptom definitions rarely include symptom severity. We collected daily nasal swabs and symptom diaries from contacts of SARS-CoV-2 cases. Requiring ≥1 moderate or severe symptom reduced sensitivity to predict SARS-CoV-2 shedding from 60.0% (CI: 52.9-66.7%) to 31.5% (CI: 25.7-38.0%), but increased specificity from 77.5% (CI:75.3-79.5%) to 93.8% (CI: 92.7-94.8%).
    • Trajectory of Viral RNA Load Among Persons With Incident SARS-CoV-2 G614 Infection (Wuhan Strain) in Association With COVID-19 Symptom Onset and Severity.

      Stankiewicz Karita, Helen C; Dong, Tracy Q; Johnston, Christine; Neuzil, Kathleen M; Paasche-Orlow, Michael K; Kissinger, Patricia J; Bershteyn, Anna; Thorpe, Lorna E; Deming, Meagan; Kottkamp, Angelica; et al. (American Medical Association, 2022-01-04)
      Importance: The SARS-CoV-2 viral trajectory has not been well characterized in incident infections. These data are needed to inform natural history, prevention practices, and therapeutic development. Objective: To characterize early SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA load (hereafter referred to as viral load) in individuals with incident infections in association with COVID-19 symptom onset and severity. Design, Setting, and Participants: This prospective cohort study was a secondary data analysis of a remotely conducted study that enrolled 829 asymptomatic community-based participants recently exposed (<96 hours) to persons with SARS-CoV-2 from 41 US states from March 31 to August 21, 2020. Two cohorts were studied: (1) participants who were SARS-CoV-2 negative at baseline and tested positive during study follow-up, and (2) participants who had 2 or more positive swabs during follow-up, regardless of the initial (baseline) swab result. Participants collected daily midturbinate swab samples for SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection and maintained symptom diaries for 14 days. Exposure: Laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. Main Outcomes and Measures: The observed SARS-CoV-2 viral load among incident infections was summarized, and piecewise linear mixed-effects models were used to estimate the characteristics of viral trajectories in association with COVID-19 symptom onset and severity. Results: A total of 97 participants (55 women [57%]; median age, 37 years [IQR, 27-52 years]) developed incident infections during follow-up. Forty-Two participants (43%) had viral shedding for 1 day (median peak viral load cycle threshold [Ct] value, 38.5 [95% CI, 38.3-39.0]), 18 (19%) for 2 to 6 days (median Ct value, 36.7 [95% CI, 30.2-38.1]), and 31 (32%) for 7 days or more (median Ct value, 18.3 [95% CI, 17.4-22.0]). The cycle threshold value has an inverse association with viral load. Six participants (6%) had 1 to 6 days of viral shedding with censored duration. The peak mean (SD) viral load was observed on day 3 of shedding (Ct value, 33.8 [95% CI, 31.9-35.6]). Based on the statistical models fitted to 129 participants (60 men [47%]; median age, 38 years [IQR, 25-54 years]) with 2 or more SARS-CoV-2-positive swab samples, persons reporting moderate or severe symptoms tended to have a higher peak mean viral load than those who were asymptomatic (Ct value, 23.3 [95% CI, 22.6-24.0] vs 30.7 [95% CI, 29.8-31.4]). Mild symptoms generally started within 1 day of peak viral load, and moderate or severe symptoms 2 days after peak viral load. All 535 sequenced samples detected the G614 variant (Wuhan strain). Conclusions and Relevance: This cohort study suggests that having incident SARS-CoV-2 G614 infection was associated with a rapid viral load peak followed by slower decay. COVID-19 symptom onset generally coincided with peak viral load, which correlated positively with symptom severity. This longitudinal evaluation of the SARS-CoV-2 G614 with frequent molecular testing serves as a reference for comparing emergent viral lineages to inform clinical trial designs and public health strategies to contain the spread of the virus.