Rapid blood test helps predict COVID-19 severity, researchers find

Researchers at St. Louis-based Washington University School of Medicine developed a one-hour blood test that could help identify which COVID-19 patients are at the greatest risk of severe complications or death. 

The test identifies mitochondrial DNA levels. High levels of mitochondrial DNA in the bloodstream indicate that violent cell death is occuring, scientists said. Researchers evaluated 97 COVID-19 patients at St. Louis-based Barnes-Jewish Hospital, using the blood test to measure mitochondrial DNA levels within the first day of a patient's hospital stay. 

The findings, published Jan. 14 in JCI Insight, showed the mitochondrial DNA levels were about 10 times higher in patients who later developed severe lung dysfunction or died. Additionally, those with higher levels were nearly six times more likely to be intubated, three times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit and nearly twice as likely to die, compared to those with lower levels. 

In addition to helping predict disease severity, researchers hope the test can serve as a guide to improve clinical trials by identifying patients who might benefit more from a particular investigational treatment. 

Researchers intend to apply for FDA approval and are working on a larger, multicenter trial to better evaluate the test's accuracy. 

More articles on patient safety and outcomes:

Patient death spurs investigation at Michigan psychiatric hospital 
Arthritis drugs may reduce deaths for severely ill COVID-19 patients, study finds
76% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients have symptoms for 6 months, study finds


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