New Orleans, LA

Viral load is not a reliable indicator of COVID-19 transmission risk, According to a Tulane University study

Pierre St-Jean

New Orleans, LA – A study from Tulane university discovers that cycle thresholds (Ct) from PCR tests — an indicator of the amount of virus an infected person carries — aren't a reliable predictor of those most likely to transmit COVID-19. According to a report published in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, even people with low viral loads can spread the virus.

Early in the pandemic, some public health officials advocated for COVID-19 testing centers to track viral load data among those who tested positive as a possible indicator for identifying and isolating those most likely to spread the virus.

From the information, previous research discovered that the Ct value of the RT-PCR testing assay is a surrogate for infectivity. Ct cutoff values have been proposed as a method of guiding isolation and quarantine practices.

According to co-author Dr. Xiao-Ming Yin, chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Dr. Donald R. and Donna G. Pulitzer Professor, people with high Ct values, which indicate low viral loads, were less likely to infect others and to quarantine all contacts of positive cases for 14 days, Ct values could help reduce quarantine days for those exposed to people with low viral loads was not the case.

Tulane University set up a high-throughput SARS-CoV-2 testing program last fall to help with contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine efforts to limit viral transmission on campus. The study examined 7,440 students who were screened between September 1 and October 31, 2020. All students were tested twice a week during the study period, and they were asked about any symptoms they were experiencing. To identify close contacts, contact tracers interviewed all positive case subjects.

For detail about this study, go to the website.

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