Death rates related to COVID are dropping and according to a new study, the viral loads (the amount of virus in a patient’s system) from COVID patients have been decreasing.
Daily Mail reports – The decline in viral loads appears to be linked to the decrease in COVID related deaths.
Researchers found that just 25 percent of nasal swabs from hospitalized patients in April detected low levels of the virus.
However, just five weeks later, nearly three-quarters of samples from patients had low viral loads – representing a 180 percent jump.
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The team, from Wayne State University, in Detroit, Michigan, says it believes that as states implemented measures, such as social distancing and face mask mandates, the number of severe cases fell.
For the study, the team looked at viral loads of SARS-CoV-2 obtained from nasopharyngeal samples over two months.
A total of 708 hospitalized patients at Detroit Medical Center were examined between the period of April 4 and June 5, 2020.
To estimate the viral load, researchers used what is known as a cycle threshold (Ct) value for each sample, with a higher Ct indicating a lower viral load.
High, intermediate, and low viral load samples were defined as having a Ct value of 25 or under, from 26 to 36, and 37 or over, respectively.
During the first week of the study period, nearly 50 percent of viral load samples fell in the intermediate category.
By comparison, only one-quarter each were classified as high or low.
However, as the weeks went by, there was a decline in the percentage of samples in the high and intermediate viral load groups and a rise of samples in the low category.
During the last week of the study period, 70 percent of the positive coronavirus samples had low viral loads.
About 20 percent of samples were in the intermediate category and approximately 15 percent were in the high group.
Researchers also found that a decrease in viral loads coincided with a decline in the percent of deaths.
Almost half of patients who were in the high viral group died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Comparatively, 32 percent of patients in the intermediate category and 14 percent in the low category passed away.
Exact reasons for a decrease in initial viral load over time are unclear,’ said lead author Dr Said El Zein, an internal medicine resident at Detroit Medical Center.
‘A downward trend in the initial [viral load] may reflect a reduction in the severity of the pandemic and trends in the viral load values over time may represent a marker to assess the progress of the pandemic.
The Daily Wire reports – There have been other reports about “viral loads.” The most used test to determine if someone has COVID-19, known as a PCR test, is either positive or negative, that’s it. But the test does not identify the viral load — the greater the amount of virus, the more likely it is that the patient is contagious or may get severely ill.
“In three sets of testing data that include cycle thresholds, compiled by officials in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada, up to 90 percent of people testing positive carried barely any virus,” The New York Times reported in August after conducting a review of data.
Apoorva Mandavilli, the Times reporter who wrote the piece, said on Twitter: “NEW: All these months into the pandemic, we may have been testing the wrong way. Data from some state labs suggest up to 90% (!!) of people who get a positive result are no longer contagious and don’t need to isolate.”
“It turns out that the PCR, that old reliable workhorse, is both too slow and too sensitive for what we need. And it all hinges on a metric called the ‘cycle threshold,’” she wrote in another post.
The current PCR test analyzes genetic matter from the virus using 37 or 40 cycles, but health experts say that is too high because it detects even small amounts of the virus that pose no risk of contagion.