Medical Moment: Blood test predicts COVID deaths

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 8:53 PM EST
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More people died of COVID last year than in 2020.

What if doctors could know if you’re at higher risk? Could more lives be saved?

Some researchers are working to save lives with a simple drop of blood.

“We came up with an analysis to try to distinguish the genes that can predict what are the patients who are going to progress and die from the disease,” says Jose Herazo-Maya from the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

These patients tend to have very scarred lungs, triggering an immune reaction very similar to the same scarring seen in patient who have a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF.

“If we could use the knowledge of IPF and apply it to COVID-19, to try to expedite the development of a good predictor test, or maybe even treatments, then that would’ve saved lives right in times and money too,” Herazo-Maya says.

Using a simple blood test from IPF patients, Herazo-Maya found 52 genes that predicted a patient’s mortality. For COVID-19, 50 of those genes are matches.

If there’s red at the top, that patient has a high mortality rate. The accuracy is 73 percent.

“Basically, out of every four patients, you can predict mortality correctly in three,” Herazo-Maya says. “If you have a high-risk profile, that means that we have to be more aggressive with your care.”

Allowing doctors to personalize treatment, drugs, and doses for each patient.

Larger clinical trials are underway, and Herazo-Maya hopes to decrease the number of genes needed to be tested so this blood test could be used in any country around the world. This test could be available for use in the next two years.

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