Researchers at the University of Southampton, UK, have found a way to identify patients with covid-19 that can contract one of the most serious symptoms of the disease, and that can eventually lead to death. Scientists have found that it is possible to predict, through a blood test, which patients will develop what is called a “cytokine storm”.
The phenomenon is also known as hyperkerokinaemia and is described as a physiological reaction that occurs when the immune system releases a large amount of cytokines without proper control. Cytokines, which are pro-inflammatory signaling molecules, help the body fight infections. However, when release is excessive and uncontrolled, there is a risk of organ failure.
Led by university professors Tim Wilkinson and Tristan Clark, the research showed that a blood test aimed at analyzing five cytokines in particular can help predict which patients are at risk of developing the deadly symptom of excessive stimulation of these molecules. Thus, it is possible to act on treatments that block this physiological reaction.
The study was published in the scientific journal Respiratory Research and has blood test analysis from 100 patients who tested positive for covid-19. The patients were admitted to the University of Southampton hospital between March 20 and April 29, a period that marked one of the first phases of the new coronavirus pandemic.
It is also worth remembering that several other serious symptoms of covid-19 may be linked to the patients’ blood type.
The results show that elevated levels of cytokines IL-6, IL-8, TNF and, mainly, IL-1β and IL-33 in the blood of patients on admission are associated with a greater chance that the patient needs intensive care treatments , with the use of artificial ventilation so that patients do not worsen their health conditions.
The latest findings will help doctors not only more effectively diagnose patients with covid-19, but also people who have contracted other viruses that can cause this cytokine storm. Among them, we highlight the H5N1, SARS-CoV-1 and the Epstein-Barr virus.
In practice, this means being able to more accurately identify which cytokines are causing hyperinflammation in each patient of covid-19 so that doctors treat each patient with individual and more effective treatments.
“These findings have identified important inflammatory signs that will help guide the development of treatment strategies for this new disease,” said Wilkinson.