A new blood test is capable of predicting the severity of COVID-19 symptoms in patients and whether they will require intensive care. The development could even predict how likely a person is to survive COVID-19.

Developed by researchers from the UK and Germany, this test could enable doctors to identify and administer life-saving treatments to patients in need sooner, which could increase their chances for survival.

The researchers identified 27 proteins in the blood of COVID-19 patients that are present at different degrees depending on the severity of their symptoms.

They tested the blood of 160 patients to determine whether these proteins could predict how their illness would progress using an instrument called a mass spectrometer to measure the presence and abundance of thousands of proteins in the blood – this is known as proteomic analysis.

“It turns out that such patients have an early inflammatory response to the infection, which we can measure in the blood and use to say, ‘OK, 40 days down the line, this is your likely outcome’,” Markus Ralser, a professor of biochemistry at the Francis Crick Institute in London and Charité University Medicine in Berlin told The Guardian.

“Every day counts with severe Covid, and those people who need intensive care need to get it as soon as possible because this greatly increases their chances of survival.”

Out of a further 24 severely ill patients, the test correctly predicted the outcome for 18 of the 19 patients who survived. It also correctly predicted that five of the patients would die.

“We can predict which patients will need oxygen support and ventilator support quite accurately, and we also have markers for patients who are not that severely ill initially, but are at high risk of getting worse,” added Ralser.

Researchers are now looking at getting the tests validated for use in hospitals in the UK, US and Germany. Studies will begin in the coming weeks.

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