More people died of COVID-19 last year than in 2020. New federal data reports the number of deaths in the U.S. caused by the virus topped more than 770,000, more than doubling the first year the virus spread throughout the country. What if doctors could know if you’re at higher risk? Could more lives be saved? Some researchers are working to save lives with a simple drop of blood.
“We came up with an analysis to try to distinguish the genes that can predict what are the patients who are going to progress and die from the disease,” explained Jose Herazo-Maya, MD, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
These patients tend to have very scarred lungs, triggering an immune reaction very similar to the same scarring seen in patients who have a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or IPF.
Dr. Herazo-Maya continued, “If we could use the knowledge of IPF and apply it to COVID-19, to try to expedite the development of a good predictor test, or maybe even treatments, then that would’ve saved lives right in times and money too.”
Using a simple blood test from IPF patients, pulmonologist Jose Herazo-Maya found 52 genes that predicted a patient’s mortality. For COVID-19, 50 of those genes are matches.
If there’s red at the top, that patient has a high mortality rate. The accuracy is 73 percent.
“Basically, out of every four patients, you can predict mortality correctly in three. If you have a high-risk profile, that means that we have to be more aggressive with your care,” stated Dr. Herazo-Maya.
Allowing doctors to personalize treatment, drugs, and doses for each patient.
Larger clinical trials are underway and Dr. Herazo-Maya hopes to decrease the number of genes needed to be tested so this blood test could be used in any country around the world. This test could be available for use in the next two years.
Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.