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A new study indicates that clinicians can take up blood examinations of covid-19 patients to identify those at greatest risk of severe illness and to pinpoint those most likely to need a ventilator.
This discovery could lead to new treatments for the prevention of the deadly “cytokine storms” found in extreme cases of covid-19. This might just explain why diabetic patients are so severely affected by the coronavirus.
As per the researchers from the University of Virginias (UVA) the levels of a particular cytokine in the blood upon diagnosis could be used to predict later outcomes.
Cytokines are basically proteins produced by immune cells. Associated with covid-19 and other serious illnesses, they are responsible for severe overreactions by the immune system, known as cytokine storms.
Study researcher from the UVA, Bill Petri says, “The immune response that we discovered to predict severe shortness of breath in covid-19 is known in other pulmonary diseases to cause damage.”
“So this could lead to a novel way to prevent respiratory failure in individuals infected with the new coronavirus, by inhibiting this immune cytokine. We plan to test this in a model of Covid-19 prior to considering a clinical trial,” Petri added.
The research team identified 57 covid-19 patients who were treated at UVA who ultimately required a ventilator. And within the next 48 hours, blood samples of these patients were taken for diagnosis. The results were then compared with the patients who didn’t require a ventilator.
Cytokine storms, in which the immune system spirals out of control, are typically associated with an established group of cytokines. However, the researchers reported that the best predictor of covid-19 outcomes was after all an “underappreciated” cytokine more associated with allergies.
High levels of that cytokine, IL-13, were associated with worsened Covid-19 outcomes regardless of patients’ gender, age or other health problems.
Two more cytokines were identified that happened to be associated with severe outcomes, but had less ability to predict the need for a ventilator.
In addition, the researchers also found that the levels of two other cytokines were significantly higher in diabetic patients.
They explained that this “pro-inflammatory response,”, may help us understand why diabetes is associated with worse covid-19 outcomes. And answer why the body is primed to respond too strongly to the infection.
The researchers said the discovery could become part of a scoring system to let doctors’ flag at-risk covid-19 patients for closer monitoring and personalized interventions. An new treatment approach could be in place owing up to this study.
(With inputs from IANS)