By now it is clear that COVID-19 manifests in different ways in different people. The severity of the disease, initially believed to be linked to age and underlying conditions only, has also been observed in young patients and those without underlying conditions.
Some experts say blood clotting factors might have a role to play.
Recently, scientists at Germany’s Francis Crick Institute and Charité – Universitätsmedizin have demonstrated that certain chemicals present in the blood of patients infected by the novel coronavirus can predict whether they will develop serious illness.
In a study published in Cell Systems, the scientists identified 27 different protein biomarkers in patients’ blood that could predict the severity of COVID-19 in the patient.
Using mass spectrometry, a method of chemical analysis, the researchers tested the blood of 31 COVID-19 patients (20 male and 11 female) at the Berlin University hospital Charité. Their results were validated in 17 patients with COVID-19 at the same hospital and in 15 healthy people.
They found elevated levels of proteins linked to interleukin-6, a protein that causes inflammation in the body. This is responsible for the body’s immune response and can result in what is known as cytokine storm, one of the main causes behind COVID-19 fatalities.
The researchers hope their findings will lead to the development of simple routine tests to check for the levels of some of these proteins in patients with COVID-19.
“A test to help doctors predict whether a COVID-19 patient is likely to become critical or not would be invaluable,” said Christoph Messner, a lead author and postdoc at the Molecular Biology of Metabolism Laboratory.
“It will help them make decisions about how to best manage the disease for each patient as well as identify those most at risk. We hope the biomarkers we’ve identified will lead to the development of these vitally needed tests.”
The authors add that their methods can also be applied to study other diseases and help scientists produce targeted drugs for therapy.