Rapid blood test to detect severe disease risk of Covid patients
Researchers, including one of Indian origin, have shown that a relatively simple and rapid blood test could predict — within a day of a hospital admission — which patients with Covid-19 are at highest risk of severe complications or death.
The study published in the JCI Insight journal indicates that the blood test measures levels of mitochondrial DNA, a unique type of DNA molecule that normally resides inside the energy factories of cells.
Mitochondrial DNA spilling out of cells and into the bloodstream is a sign that a particular type of violent cell death is taking place in the body.
“We will need larger trials to verify what we found in this study, but if we could determine in the first 24 hours of admission whether a patient is likely to need dialysis/incubation or medication to keep their blood pressure from dropping too low, that would change how we triage the patient and it might change how we manage them much earlier in the course of the disease,” said researcher Hrishikesh S. Kulkarni, Assistant Professor at the Washington University in the US.
The test could serve as a way to predict disease severity as well as a tool to better design clinical trials, identifying patients who might benefit from specific investigational treatments.
The team evaluated 97 patients with Covid-19, measuring their mitochondrial DNA levels on the first day of their hospital stay.
They found that mitochondrial DNA levels were much higher in patients who eventually were admitted to the ICU, incubated or died. The researchers found this association held independently of a patient’s age, sex and underlying health conditions.
On an average, mitochondrial DNA levels were nearly tenfold higher in patients with Covid-19 who developed severe lung dysfunction or eventually died.
Those with elevated levels were nearly six times more likely to be incubated, three times more likely to be admitted to the ICU and nearly twice as likely to die compared with those with lower levels.