Blood Molecules Can Predict Coronavirus Disease Severity

Since the start of the pandemic, the researchers both in United States and all over the world are scrambling to understand the nitty gritty of coronavirus and the disease it causes. As more data is coming to light, people are also hoping a potential treatment option will also emerge.

In one of such efforts, a research team has found 200 unique biological molecules that can be found in the blood of people suffering from coronavirus infection. The most significant part is that these molecules are not present in people who are usually hospitalized with some kind of respiratory illness.

This means these molecules may allow, doctors to gauge who has COVID-19 and who does not in the future. The data related to the research is available freely to other researchers as well on a web tool called covid-omics.app.

These unique biological molecules provide insights into how the virus harms the body. This was precisely the reason, these scientists carried out this research.

Ariel Jaitovich is a pulmonary and critical care physician at Albany Medical College in Albany, New York. “New York City was affected very drastically during the first months of the pandemic,” he said. “We received a lot of patients from the city in March and April because of this overwhelming situation created by the pandemic.”

This meant that there were as many people to study. For scientist this kind of data is priceless. A large cohort in New York meant theta the scientists could observe people under controlled conditions. For such a purpose, Jaitovich worked with Josh Coon, a biomolecular chemist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Together they analyzed the blood samples of 102 people who were hospitalized because of coronavirus. They also included 26 other patients who were hospitalized but had some other kind of respiratory illness.

When analyzing the blood, they looked for more than 17,000 molecules in the blood including lipids, proteins, and RNA. They also tracked the levels of all these molecules in people throughout their illness.

Using modern analysis software, the researchers then identified unique molecules that were associated with coronavirus infection and disease severity.

“We also identified potentially targetable entities, not only predictive entities,” explains Jaitovich.

“Targetable entities” are the levels that doctors know how to control through medication. They can be brought back to their normal levels easily.

In the study, researchers found that the more severe the patient’s disease, the less they had of a molecule called citrate. Citrate is a molecule which prevents blood from clotting. This is important as one of the key features of the coronavirus is blood clotting that can cause serious and life-threatening complications.

They also found that one molecule called gelsolin, which is released in response to inflammation and cellular damage, when in low concentrations could mean a more sever coronavirus infection. Scientists observed that people who have low gelsolin to clean the damage caused by the virus, get sicker.

The scientists explained that they are not experts regarding all of the data that they have accumulated. “We’re not experts in all the different areas,” said Coon. “Now that this is out, people who are experts in proteins can drive some of their own hypotheses based on the results.” That is why, they made the data available to every other scientist out there.

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