New Study Identifies Higher COVID-19 Viral Loads in American Indians and Alaskan Natives

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A recently published article in Experimental Biology and Medicine (Volume 247, Issue 14, July, 2022) identifies a potential cause of disproportionate COVID-19 disease severity in certain racial/ethnic groups. The study, led by Dr. Douglas Jay Perkins, Director of the University of New Mexico Center for Global Health (New Mexico, USA), reports that hospitalized patients who self-reported as American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) had higher SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in peripheral blood and more severe COVID-19.  

From the start of the pandemic onward, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected certain racial/ethnic groups, including American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations who have experienced high rates of infection, hospitalization, and mortality. Several studies have found that detection of SARS-CoV-2 in peripheral blood is associated with the development of severe COVID-19 and mortality. However, data are largely unreported for SARS-CoV-2 viral load dynamics and COVID-19 severity in some groups of patients. 

In this study, Perkins and colleagues examined viral load dynamics and disease severity in a diverse cohort of hospitalized patients at the University of New Mexico Hospital. The group found that the strongest predictor of severe COVID-19 in the study population was the average viral load in peripheral blood. The AI/AN patients had comparable comorbidities to the other groups, yet more severe COVID-19, twice the length of hospital stay, and higher viral loads in peripheral blood during hospitalization. Self-reported race/ethnicity as AI/AN was the strongest predictor of elevated viral loads in peripheral blood. These findings show that detection of SARS-CoV-2 in peripheral blood is associated with severe COVID-19. The group is currently exploring novel treatment interventions that target SARS-CoV-2 in peripheral blood as a strategy for improving patient outcomes, especially in vulnerable populations. 

Dr. Perkins said: "We are grateful to present findings that address the disproportionate COVID-19 disease burden in our American Indian brothers and sisters. It is our great hope that such findings can provide a scientific foundation to foster the development of improved prevention and treatment strategies for those most affected by COVID-19."

Dr. Steven R. Goodman, Editor-in-Chief of Experimental Biology and Medicine, said, "Dr. Perkins and colleagues have presented clear evidence that the strongest predictor of severe COVID-19 in their patient cohort was SARS-CoV-2 viral load in peripheral blood. Further, they demonstrated that those who self-reported as American Indian and or Alaska Native had more severe COVID-19 and higher peripheral blood viral load. This provides a strong case for more frequent detection of SARS-CoV-2 in the peripheral blood being an important factor for more severe COVID-19 observed in epidemiological studies on American Indian and Alaska Native populations."

Experimental Biology and Medicine is a global journal dedicated to the publication of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research in the biomedical sciences. The journal was first established in 1903. Experimental Biology and Medicine is the journal of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine. To learn about the benefits of society membership visit If you are interested in publishing in the journal, please visit

For more information, please contact

Related Images

Image 1

This content was issued through the press release distribution service at


Featured Image for Experimental Biology and Medicine