A simple blood test may predict the risk of severe coronavirus infection, say scientists who have identified a particular molecular signature in human blood that increases the chances of hospitalisation by 5 to 10 times in people infected with the deadly disease.
The test can be used to identify people who’ll need special precautions to avoid infection and prioritise those in most need of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the scientists.
“When we first started treating COVID-19 patients, we watched them get better or get worse, but we didn’t know why,” Juan Reyes – MD, co-author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences – said.
“Some initial studies had come out of China showing certain biomarkers were associated with bad outcomes. There was a desire to see if that was true for our patients here in the U.S,” Reyes added.
For the study, researchers evaluated 299 patients with COVID-19 admitted to George Washington Hospital between March 12 and May 9, 2020.
Of these, 200 had all the biomarkers being studied, namely, IL-6, D-dimer, CRP, LDH and ferritin. Higher levels of these markers were tied with inflammation and bleeding disorders, and an increased risk of being admitted to the intensive care unit, needing ventilator support, and death, the researchers found.
Study author Dr. Shant Ayanian said, “We hope these biomarkers help physicians determine how aggressively they need to treat patients, whether a patient should be discharged, and how to monitor patients who are going home, among other clinical decisions.” Ayanian is an assistant professor of medicine at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Currently, doctors determine risk for COVID-19 deterioration and death based on age and certain underlying medical conditions, like having an immunocompromised state, obesity, and heart disease.