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expert reaction to abstract on using cytokines as a marker to identify COVID-19 patients with the worst prognosis

A conference abstract presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) Annual Meeting looks at specific immune alterations in COVID-19 and severity prediction at admission to Hospital.


Dr Alexander Edwards, Associate Professor in Biomedical Technology, University of Reading, said:

“For many years we have sought “signatures” measured in blood that can pick out the few people at most risk of illness. The hope is that by measuring many different factors, we can improve diagnosis compared to traditional “single measurement” tests that are commonly used at the moment. With many diseases, by the time the patient’s health has worsened, it can be too late to provide tailored treatments to prevent the most severe symptoms. On the other hand, we can’t always treat everyone affected just in case they develop a more severe illness.

“This useful study has identified patterns of the signals used by our immune cells (called “cytokines”) that can be measured in blood, which might be able to spot those at highest risk of severe covid-19, before they are gasping for breath. There remain two steps before this important discovery can be turned into a useful blood test.

“Firstly, it needs to be checked with different groups of patients. The levels of the ‘biomarkers’ – including cytokines such as IL-6 – often change with other factors, such as different treatments or patient groups. Secondly, we still need to improve the way we measure these markers, to make rapid and practical decisions. Many research groups- including our own- have been developing new ways to accurately measure panels of biomarkers in a single blood sample, ideally rapidly at the side of the patient. Yet it remains difficult to turn these research devices into products. Home lateral flow tests for example are currently unable to measure levels of multiple markers in blood well enough to offer a quick, cheap, disposable test.”



The oral presentation L0371 on the abstract ‘Specific immune alterations in COVID-19 and severity prediction at admission to Hospital’ is being presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) Annual Meeting. The material has been peer reviewed by the congress selection committee. There is no full paper at this stage.



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Declared interests

None received.



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