Virological surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in an Italian Northern area: differences in gender, age and Real Time RT PCR cycle threshold (Ct) values in three epidemic periods.

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Mostafa Mohieldin Mahgoub Ibrahim
Maria Eugenia Colucci
Licia Veronesi
Isabella Viani
Anna Odone
Mattia Pia Arena
Monia Incerti
Elisa Tamburini
Roberta Zoni
Cesira Pasquarella
Paola Affanni


SARS-CoV-2 surveillance, age, gender, Real Time RT PCR, Cycle threshold (Ct) values


Background and aim of the work: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), is a global public health emergency. The aim of this study was to investigate cases characteristics and Real Time RT PCR cycle threshold (Ct) values distribution of COVID-19 in an Italian Northern area during three periods: first period, February-May 2020; second period, June-August 2020; third period, September 2020-February 2021. Methods: Real Time RT PCR was used to detect SARS-CoV-2 in respiratory samples (oro/nasopharyngeal swabs). Results: A total of 254,744 samples were tested during the study period. Out of 20,188 positive samples (7.92%), 10,303 were females (51.04%) and 9,885 were males (48.96%). The percentage of positivity varied during the three different periods: 14.1% in the first period, 1.4% in the second and 9.2% in the third. The lowest Ct values were observed in the first phase of pandemic, with an overall average of 25.64. Overall average of the Ct values was lower in males than in females, 26.29 ± 6.04 and 26.84 ± 5.99 respectively. The oldest patients recorded lower Ct values. Conclusions: The findings of our study represent further evidence in support of the fact that male sex and older age showed lower Ct values, which means higher viral loads and higher infectious potential. These knowledges are useful to better understand the epidemiological aspects of COVID-19 and to perform effective Public Health Policies.


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