Blood test may determine coronavirus patients' severity of illness, risk of death: study

The researchers studied the blood of 299 patients positive for COVID-19

How severe a case of coronavirus a person will develop may depend on five indicators found in the blood called biomarkers, according to researchers at George Washington University.

The biomarkers were associated with higher chances of deterioration from COVID-19 and death, according to a news release from the university. The authors of the study, published in Future Medicine, said they decided on their research after initial findings in China showed biomarkers associated with poor outcomes in patients with the novel coronavirus.

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"This study has identified these five biomarkers as having an association with bad outcomes and not causation in a U.S. cohort,” study authors Dr. Juan Reyes and Dr. Shant Ayanian said in a combined statement to Fox News.

The team of researchers from George Washington University studied the blood of 299 patients positive for COVID-19. They then analyzed five biomarkers present in the patients’ blood, according to the release. Two hundred of the patients had all five biomarkers analyzed, including CRP, D-dimer, IL-6, LDH, and ferritin.

Increased levels of these biomarkers were associated with bleeding disorders and inflammation which, according to the news release, showed an increased risk for ICU admission, ventilation support, and death. The authors reported the greatest risk of death occurred when the D-dimer level was greater than 3 μg/ml and the LDH was higher than 1200 units/l.

“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, the first author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said in a news release.

Currently, physicians determine the risk for novel coronavirus death and the severity of the disease progression based on age and preexisting medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and a compromised immune system, according to the study authors' statements in the release.  A simple blood test performed in the emergency department may help guide the coronavirus patient’s treatment and plan of care, the authors said.

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“In light of the current challenges faced by the pandemic, especially for institutions dealing with an overwhelming number of patients being hospitalized, this study could be useful for clinicians in order to identify sicker patients and aid resource utilization," the study authors told Fox News.

The research team will continue to analyze this data to help physicians make more informed decisions for patients, as well as help hospitals that may need to decide on resources, according to the release.

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