Levels of the virus that causes COVID-19 have declined over time in U.S. patients, which could explain the lower number of intensive care admissions and overall mortality rates compared to when the virus first appeared, researchers claim.
The study, conducted by researchers at Wayne State University and presented to the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, relied on nasal swabs taken from hospital patients in Detroit between April 4 and June 5. They then rated all samples that tested positive for SARS -CoV-2 during this period and found a progressive decrease in the number of samples classified as having a high viral load.
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“By the fifth week of the study, 70% of the positive samples had an initial low viral load,”
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The authors acknowledged that confusing variables were not included in their observations, but that the results suggest an association between initial viral load and mortality.
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“Exact reasons for a decrease in the initial viral load over time are unclear,” said Dr. El Zein, lead author of the study. “A downward trend in the initial viral load can reflect a decrease in the severity of the pandemic, and trends in viral load values over time can provide a marker for assessing how the pandemic is progressing. The rapid implementation of social distancing measures, lockdowns, and widespread use of face masks may have contributed to reductions in exposure to the virus. “