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Blood Markers Linked to Severe COVID-19 Could Pave Way for Simple Diagnostic Tests

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 23 Dec 2021
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Scientists have identified unique “indicators” in the blood of patients with severe and fatal COVID, paving the way for simple diagnostic tests to help doctors identify who will go on to become critically ill.

In a study led by researchers at the Hull York Medical School (Heslington, UK) and Department of Mathematics at the University of York (York, UK), the scientists analyzed blood samples from hospitalized COVID patients. They detected markers in the blood associated with 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 new research involved testing blood samples from over 160 patients admitted to hospital during the first and second wave of the pandemic.

The researchers measured levels of cytokines and chemokines – the proteins in the blood which 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 with fatal outcomes from COVID.

“Our study identified factors in the blood that are uniquely correlated with severe and fatal outcomes for hospitalized COVID patients,” said lead author of the study Dr. Dimitris Lagos, from Hull York Medical School at the University of York. “These findings support the observation that COVID is a disease that develops in stages and have the potential to provide doctors with vital information, allowing them to tailor treatments according to severity of disease and identify high-risk patients early. Importantly, our 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.”

“Our findings provide a scientific foundation for the development of blood tests that could provide doctors with vital information on which treatments will be most effective for a patient,” added co-Investigator of the study, Dr. Nathalie Signoret, from Hull York Medical School at the University of York. “The fact that this analysis could be carried out as part of already established routine clinical blood testing could provide all hospitals with better tools for triaging patients and identifying early individuals who are more likely to suffer worse outcomes.”

Related Links:
Hull York Medical School
University of York 


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