Publication date: Sep 01, 2023
Detection of subgenomic (sg) SARS-CoV-2 RNAs are frequently used as a correlate of viral infectiousness, but few data about correlation between sg load and viable virus are available. Here, we defined concordance between culture isolation and E and N sgRNA quantification by ddPCR assays in 51 nasopharyngeal swabs collected from SARS-CoV-2 positive hospitalized patients. Among the 51 samples, 14 were SARS-CoV-2 culture-positive and 37 were negative. According to culture results, the sensitivity and specificity of E and N sgRNA assays were 100% and 100%, and 84% and 86%, respectively. ROC analysis showed that the best E and N cut-offs to predict positive culture isolation were 32 and 161 copies/mL respectively, with an AUC (95% CI) of 0. 96 (0. 91-1. 00) and 0. 96 (0. 92-1. 00), and a diagnostic accuracy of 88% and 92%, respectively. Even if no significant correlations were observed between sgRNA amount and clinical presentation, a higher number of moderate/severe cases and lower number of days from symptoms onset characterized patients with sgRNA equal to or higher than sgRNA cut-offs. Overall, this study suggests that SARS-CoV-2 sgRNA quantification could be helpful to estimate the replicative activity of SARS-CoV-2 and can represent a valid surrogate marker to efficiently recognize patients with active infection. The inclusion of this assay in available SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics procedure might help in optimizing fragile patients monitoring and management.
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