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Infectious Diseases

Updated 09 September 2020

How coronavirus detected in the blood can predict more severe cases of Covid-19

Imagine if a simple blood test could predict the outcome of Covid-19 and help alleviate the most severe effects? According to new research, it may be a possibility.

  • New research has found that the higher the level of coronavirus in the blood, the more likely that Covid-19 could be critical
  • A simple blood analysis could help medical professionals guide treatment for the most high-risk cases
  • This research also confirms that the risk of more severe Covid-19 increases with age

A blood test upon arrival at a hospital which shows the presence or absence of SARS-CoV-2 in the blood would be able to help act as a “triage” system to help identify those with severe Covid-19. When the virus is present in the blood, there is a higher chance of a more severe outcome.

Does this sound too good to be true? According to researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Danderyd Hospital, those without SARS-CoV-2 in blood samples may recover from Covid-19 more quickly. The study was recently published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Higher viral level in blood equals higher chance of death

The researchers took blood samples from Covid-19 patients admitted to the Department of Infectious Diseases, Danderyd Hospital, Sweden. Those patients with detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 in their blood were seven times more likely to develop critical symptoms and eight times more likely to die within 28 days, the researchers revealed.

They took samples from 167 patients and performed a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) analysis to determine the level of SARS-CoV-2 in the blood. Out of these patients, 61 had measurable levels of virus in their blood and out of those 61 patients, 15 died within 28 days of admission and blood sampling.

On the other hand, of the 106 patients who had no detectable level of virus in their blood samples, only three of those patients died.

SARS-CoV-2 in blood samples were also more common in patients older than 60 and the viral level increased with age.

Easier to identify risk categories

According to the study authors, this new finding is in line with previous findings in the coronavirus diseases SARS and MERS.

They stated that a simple, commonly available PCR method can help identify high-risk or critical patients rapidly and will help medical professionals make informed treatment decisions.

"This readily available test allows us to identify patient groups at high or low risk of severe Covid-19, which enables us to better guide the treatment and monitoring of these patients," said the study's lead author Karl Hagman, infectious diseases consultant at Danderyd Hospital and doctoral student at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Clinical Sciences at the same hospital.

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