Many providers use severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) cycle thresholds (Ct values) as approximate measures of viral burden in association with other clinical data to inform decisions about treatment and isolation. We characterized temporal changes in Ct values for non-SARS-CoV-2 respiratory viruses as a first step to determine whether cycle thresholds could play a similar role in the management of non-SARS-CoV-2 respiratory viruses.
Retrospective cohort study.
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston.
We retrospectively identified all adult patients with positive nasopharyngeal PCRs for influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza, human metapneumovirus (HMPV), rhinovirus, or adenovirus between January 2022 and March 2023. We plotted Ct distributions relative to days since symptom onset, and we assessed whether distributions varied by immunosuppression and other comorbidities.
We analyzed 1,863 positive samples: 506 influenza, 502 rhinovirus, 430 RSV, 219 HMPV, 180 parainfluenza, 26 adenovirus. Ct values were generally 25-30 on the day of symptom onset, lower over the ensuing 1-3 days, and progressively higher thereafter with Ct values ≥30 after 1 week for most viruses. Ct values were generally higher and more stable over time for rhinovirus. There was no association between immunocompromised status and median intervals from symptom onset until Ct values were ≥30.
Ct values relative to symptom onset for influenza, RSV, and other non-SARS-CoV-2 respiratory viruses generally mirror patterns seen with SARS-CoV-2. Further data on associations between Ct values and viral viability, transmissibility, host characteristics, and response to treatment for non-SARS-CoV-2 respiratory viruses are needed to determine how clinicians and infection preventionists might integrate Ct values into treatment and isolation decisions.