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Journal of Integrative Medicine ›› 2021, Vol. 19 ›› Issue (3): 226-231.doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2021.01.002

• Original Clinical Research • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Early therapeutic interventions of traditional Chinese medicine in COVID-19 patients: a retrospective cohort study

Miao-yan Shia, Shi-qi Suna, Wei Zhanga, Xing Zhanga, Gui-hua Xua, Xuan Chena, Zi-jian Sua, Xiu-ming Songa, Lu-jiong Liua, Yi-bao Zhanga, Yi-le Zhanga, Meng Suna, Qi Chena, Yan Xuea, Hua Lüb, Wei-an Yuanc, Xiao-rong Chend, Yun-fei Lud   

  1. a Department of Respiratory Disease, Shuguang Hospital, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China
    b Center for Clinical Effect Evaluation, Shuguang Hospital, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China
    c Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Shuguang Hospital, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China
    d Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, Fudan University, Shanghai 201508, China
  • Received:2020-08-25 Accepted:2020-12-15 Online:2021-05-12 Published:2021-04-20
  • Contact: Wei Zhang; Xing Zhang;


To observe the early interventions of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) on the conversion time of nucleic acid in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and find possible underlying mechanisms of action.


A retrospective cohort study was conducted on 300 confirmed COVID-19 patients who were treated with TCM, at a designated hospital in China. The patients were categorized into three groups: TCM1, TCM2 and TCM3, who respectively received TCM interventions within 7, 8–14, and greater than 15 days of hospitalization. Different indicators such as the conversion time of pharyngeal swab nucleic acid, the conversion time of fecal nucleic acid, length of hospital stay, and inflammatory markers (leukocyte count, and lymphocyte count and percentage) were analyzed to observe the impact of early TCM interventions on these groups.


The median conversion times of pharyngeal swab nucleic acid in the three groups were 5.5, 7 and 16 d (P < 0.001), with TCM1 and TCM2 being statistically different from TCM3 (P < 0.01). TCM1 (P < 0.05) and TCM3 (P < 0.01) were statistically different from TCM2. The median conversion times of fecal nucleic acid in the three groups were 7, 9 and 17 d (P < 0.001). Conversion times of fecal nucleic acid in TCM1 were statistically different from TCM3 and TCM2 (P < 0.01). The median lengths of hospital stay in the three groups were 13, 16 and 21 d (P < 0.001). TCM1 and TCM2 were statistically different from TCM3 (P < 0.01); TCM1 and TCM3 were statistically different from TCM2 (P < 0.01). Both leucocyte and lymphocyte counts increased gradually with an increase in the length of hospital stay in TCM1 group patients, with a statistically significant difference observed at each time point in the group (P < 0.001). Statistically significant differences in lymphocyte count and percentage in TCM2 (P < 0.001), and in leucocyte count (P = 0.043) and lymphocyte count (P = 0.038) in TCM3 were observed. The comparison among the three groups showed a statistically significant difference in lymphocyte percentage on the third day of admission (P = 0.044).


In this study, it was observed that in COVID-19 patients treated with a combination of Chinese and Western medicines, TCM intervention earlier in the hospital stay correlated with faster conversion time of pharyngeal swab and fecal nucleic acid, as well as shorter length of hospital stay, thus helping promote faster recovery of the patient. The underlying mechanism of action may be related to improving inflammation in patients with COVID-19.

Key words: Coronavirus disease 2019, Early interventions, Traditional Chinese medicine, Conversion time of viral nucleic acid, Inflammatory indicators

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