Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Early detection of increased infections or new variants of SARS-CoV-2 is critical for public health response. To determine whether cycle threshold (Ct) data from PCR tests for SARS-CoV-2 could serve as an early indicator of epidemic growth, we analyzed daily mean Ct values in England, UK, by gene target and used iterative sequential regression to detect break points in mean Ct values (and positive test counts). To monitor the epidemic in England, we continued those analyses in real time. During September 2020-January 2022, a total of 7,611,153 positive SARS-CoV-2 PCR test results with Ct data were reported. Spike (S) gene target (S+/S-)-specific mean Ct values decreased 6-29 days before positive test counts increased, and S-gene Ct values provided early indication of increasing new variants (Delta and Omicron). Our approach was beneficial in the context of the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic and can be used to support future infectious disease monitoring.

Original publication




Journal article


Emerging infectious diseases

Publication Date





2024 - 2031


Humans, England, Pandemics, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2