As healthcare professionals strive to know more about COVID-19, one aspect that vexes them is their inability to predict which newly hospitalized patients will face severe form of the disease. Some of the severe forms of the disease are complications that require injecting a breathing tube, intensive care, or kidney dialysis. Mostly, patient’s age and underlying medical conditions can predict such outcomes. However, when patients of younger age, and seemingly healthier suffer severe complications that sometimes lead to death, this surprises healthcare professionals.
In a new development, scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis unveil the efficacy of a relatively simple and rapid blood test for the purpose. Within a day of hospitalization, the test can predict which patients of COVID-19 carry highest risk of developing into severe complications or even death.
The study published in JCI Insight is based on almost 100 new patients of COVID-19 admitted to the hospital.
Elaborating on the blood test, it computes levels of mitochondrial DNA. A unique type of DNA molecule, it is normally present inside the energy factories of cells. In fact, spilling of mitochondrial DNA out of cells and into the bloodstream is an indication of a particular type of violent cell death occurring in the body.
Limited availability of treatments necessitate improved tools
“Nonetheless, doctors need improved tools to assess the status of COVID-19 patients as early as possible. This is because of limited availability of a number of treatments such as monoclonal antibodies, and statistics strengthen some patients will come out of the disease without intensive treatments,” said co-senior author of the study.
“In fact, there are several aspects of the disease that healthcare professional do not understand,” added the co-senior author.