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Protein Biomarkers Could Predict If COVID-19 Patients Can Become Severely Ill

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 08 Jun 2020
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Image: Illustration of a 2019-novel coronavirus (nCoV) virion (Photo courtesy of Alissa Eckert, MS/CDC).
Image: Illustration of a 2019-novel coronavirus (nCoV) virion (Photo courtesy of Alissa Eckert, MS/CDC).
Researchers have identified 27 protein biomarkers that could be used to predict whether a patient with COVID-19 is likely to become severely ill with the disease.

In their study, researchers at the Francis Crick Institute (London, UK) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Berlin, Germany) found 27 potential biomarkers that are present in different levels in patients with COVID-19, depending upon the severity of their symptoms. The markers could help doctors to predict how ill a patient will become and provide scientists with new targets for drug development.

The researchers refined an analysis method called mass spectrometry to rapidly test for the presence and quantity of various proteins in the blood plasma. This platform was developed at the Francis Crick Institute and applied to analyze serum of 31 COVID-19 patients at the Berlin University hospital Charité. Their results were further validated in 17 patients with COVID-19 at the same hospital and in 15 healthy people. Three of the key proteins identified by the researchers were associated with interleukin IL-6, a protein which causes inflammation, a known marker for severe symptoms. The researchers hope that their findings will lead to the development of simple routine tests to check for the levels for one or some of these proteins in patients with COVID-19. The results of such tests could be used to support doctors in deciding what treatment to give.

“A test to help doctors predict whether a COVID-19 patient is likely to become critical or not would be invaluable. It will help them make decisions about how to best manage the disease for each patient as well as identify those most at risk,” said Christoph Messner, one of the lead authors and postdoc in the Molecular Biology of Metabolism Laboratory at the Crick. “We hope the biomarkers we’ve identified will lead to the development of these vitally needed tests.”

“The robust method we’ve used in this study is a valuable and powerful tool to predict disease progression and also find potential targets for treatments. Our approach could also be easily applied to other diseases, now and in the future, to understand more about their effects on the body,” said Markus Ralser, paper author and group leader at the Crick and Charité.

Related Links:
Francis Crick Institute
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin



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