The determinants of COVID-19 disease severity and extrapulmonary complications (EPCs) are poorly understood. We characterized relationships between SARS-CoV-2 RNAemia and disease severity, clinical deterioration, and specific EPCs.We used quantitative (qPCR) and digital (dPCR) PCR to quantify SARS-CoV-2 RNA from plasma in 191 patients presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) with COVID-19. We recorded patient symptoms, laboratory markers, and clinical outcomes, with a focus on oxygen requirements over time. We collected longitudinal plasma samples from a subset of patients. We characterized the role of RNAemia in predicting clinical severity and EPCs using elastic net regression.23.0% (44/191) of SARS-CoV-2 positive patients had viral RNA detected in plasma by dPCR, compared to 1.4% (2/147) by qPCR. Most patients with serial measurements had undetectable RNAemia within 10 days of symptom onset, reached maximum clinical severity within 16 days, and symptom resolution within 33 days. Initially RNAaemic patients were more likely to manifest severe disease (OR 6.72 [95% CI, 2.45 - 19.79]), worsening of disease severity (OR 2.43 [95% CI, 1.07 - 5.38]), and EPCs (OR 2.81 [95% CI, 1.26 - 6.36]). RNA load correlated with maximum severity (r = 0.47 [95% CI, 0.20 - 0.67]).dPCR is more sensitive than qPCR for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNAemia, which is a robust predictor of eventual COVID-19 severity and oxygen requirements, as well as EPCs. Since many COVID-19 therapies are initiated on the basis of oxygen requirements, RNAemia on presentation might serve to direct early initiation of appropriate therapies for the patients most likely to deteriorate.
View details for DOI 10.1093/cid/ciab394
View details for PubMedID 33949665