This blood test could predict severe and fatal COVID

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a new study from the University of York, researchers have identified unique “indicators” in the blood of patients with severe and fatal COVID.

This paves the way for simple diagnostic tests to help doctors identify who will go on to become critically ill.

In the study, the scientists analyzed blood samples from hospitalized COVID patients.

They tested blood samples from over 160 patients admitted to the hospital during the first and second waves of the pandemic.

The researchers measured levels of cytokines and chemokines—the proteins in the blood that drive the overwhelming immune response observed in patients with COVID—as well as tiny RNAs, called microRNAs—which reflect the state of diseased tissues and are already known to be good indicators of severity and stage in several other diseases.

They identified a set of cytokines, chemokines, and microRNAs linked to fatal outcomes from COVID.

These markers in the blood linked to patients becoming so ill they needed treatment in intensive care.

The findings may lead to new ways for triaging and assessing the risk of COVID patients, relieving the pressure from hospitals during infection spikes.

Since the start of the pandemic, researchers have been working to understand how and why COVID affects individuals differently.

Even patients hospitalized with the disease have diverse treatment needs, with some milder cases simply requiring extra oxygen while others need invasive ventilation in intensive care.

The team says the current study identified factors in the blood that are uniquely correlated with severe and fatal outcomes for hospitalized COVID patients.

These findings support the observation that COVID is a disease that develops in stages and has the potential to provide doctors with vital information, allowing them to tailor treatments according to the severity of the disease and identify high-risk patients early.

Importantly, the findings could provide the basis for new tests that are feasible in any hospital as samples we used were from routine blood tests already carried out as part of standard care for COVID patients.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about why older people more likely to have COVID-19, and findings of how to overcome COVID-19 pandemic fatigue.

For more information about the pandemic, please see recent studies about how to take care of your lungs during COVID and beyond, and results showing that exposure to harmless coronaviruses can boost your COVID-19 immunity.

The study is published in the journal iScience. One author of the study is Dr. Dimitris Lagos.

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