Doctors have been struggling to predict the severity of COVID19 disease among the patients who have been hospitalized during the pandemic. These severe complications need the placing of a breathing tube, kidney dialysis, and other intensive care. Doctors are able to identify the onset of such complications by the age of patients and their underlying health issues. However, they are surprised when younger people, seemingly healthy, with no underlying health issues, are diagnosed with such severe complications that can result in death. Now, a team of scientists from Washington University School of Medicine has found a new method, which might be able to predict these complications quite early. Experts have said that a simple rapid blood test is quite effective in estimating the onset of severe COVID19 disease within a day of hospitalization. This blood test can easily detect patients with COVID19 disease, who are at a greater risk of developing severe complications or death. This study has involved more than 100 COVID19 patients, who have been recently admitted to the hospital. The findings of the study have been released in JCI Insight. With the help of this new blood test, doctors will be able to predict who all are at a higher risk of severe COVID19 disease and they will be able to provide required care to such patients in time before it becomes too late.
The blood test detects the levels of mitochondrial DNA, which is a unique type of DNA molecule in the blood samples of the patients. This DNA molecule is found inside the energy factories of cells. Experts have said that when this Mitochondrial DNA starts oozing out of cells and goes into the bloodstream, it shows that a specific type of violent cell death is happening in the body. The senior authors of the study Andrew E. Gelman, J. Jacqueline G., and William E. Maritz have said that doctors need to have better tools to predict the status of patients who have been diagnosed with COVID19 at the earliest possible, as treatments such as monoclonal antibodies do not have enough supply. They have said that there are many patients who might be cured without intensive care. The authors of the study have said that there are many things, doctors do not understand about the COVID19 disease. They need to know why some patients without any underlying conditions and irrespective of their age slip into a hyperinflammatory death spiral, said the experts. The study has shown that tissue damage might be one of the reasons behind this death spiral as the discharge of mitochondrial DNA itself is an inflammatory process. Scientists have said that the new rapid blood test is a novel way to predict the severity of the disease and it serves as a tool for designing better clinical trials. It will be able to identify patients, who might benefit from specific trial treatments. Experts who have been involved in the study have said that they are planning to test whether this blood test can serve as a tool to monitor the efficiency of new therapies. They think that efficient treatment might be able to reduce the discharge of mitochondrial DNA into the bloodstream of the patients. The co-author of the study has said that though larger studies are required to verify the findings of the study, identifying whether a patient is likely to need dialysis, intubation, or intensive care to prevent the blood pressure from dropping too low within 24 hours of hospitalization is going to change the way doctors prioritize the patient. It will allow doctors to change the course of treatment much earlier for better outcomes.
Experts have looked at around 100 patients who have been newly admitted to Barnes-Jewish Hospital. They examined the levels of mitochondrial DNA in their bloodstream on the first day of hospitalization. They have seen that the levels of mitochondrial DNA have been much higher in patients who have been eventually shifted to ICU, intubated, or lost their lives. This link has been prevalent in the patients irrespective of their age, sex, or underlying health issues. Experts have said that on average, patients who have been diagnosed with severe lung dysfunction have been found with ten times higher levels of mitochondrial DNA in their bloodstream. Patients with higher levels of mitochondrial DNA have been at around six times greater risk of intubation, and three times higher risk of being admitted to ICU. Patients, who have been diagnosed with higher levels of mitochondrial DNA, have been two times higher risk of death due to the infection as compared with those who have been identified with lower levels of mitochondrial DNA. Experts have said that the test has been better at predicting the severe complications inflicted by COVID19 as compared to current markers of inflammation measured in hospitalized COVID19 patients. Other markers of inflammation are typical markers of systemic inflammation. They do not measure inflammation specific to cell death.