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AP photo, Doctors in ICU monitor COVID-19 patients through the glass. Viral load tests will help them guide care from patient to patient. ©

 

 

This color-enhanced electron microscope image shows novel coronavirus virus particles. Measuring viral loads of COVID-19 patients could help identify those most at risk. Seattletimes.com

 

The New York Times (12/29,reports that “dozens of research papers published over the past few months found that people whose bodies were teeming with the coronavirus more often became seriously ill and more likely to die, compared with those who carried much less virus and were more likely to emerge relatively unscathed.” The results “suggest that knowing the so-called viral load – the amount of virus in the body – could help doctors predict a patient’s course, distinguishing those who may need an oxygen check just once a day, for example, from those who need to be monitored more closely, said Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious disease physician at Columbia University in New York.”

 

Medical Commentary:  Paul Goldfinger, MD

It seems intuitive that measuring the amount of coronavirus would correlate with severity.  But measuring viral load has not been routine. Florida is a leader in this requiring all labs toe measure viral load along with other coronavirus tests.

In my own experience, we routinely cared for influenza victims, but viral load was never measured. On the other hand infectious disease specialists have been measuring viral load in HIV patients for years, finding the test to be hugely helpful in assessing the severity of disease.

The FDA just approved viral load measurements to be made wherever coronavirus patients are being tested. Doctors are enthused about this test, and as the clinical data rolls in, the usefulness of the test will be clarified and sharpened.

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