Biomarkers Can Give Early Indication of Severe COVID-19

March 4, 2021
Killian Meara

The findings underscore the connection between COVID-19 and the increased risk from obesity.

Because it is difficult to predict which patients will develop a more severe case of COVID-19 when they first arrive in the hospital, any way to assess who may become critically ill and require intensive care would be a significant advantage to physicians on the front lines.

A recent study conducted by investigators from Yale University suggests that a series of biological signals that are associated with white blood cell activation and obesity are able to predict more severe outcomes of those who are infected with COVID-19. Results from the study were published in the journal Blood Advances.

"This is one of the first demonstrations that a set of biomarkers in the blood of COVID patients can predict eventual ICU admission, even before such patients become critically ill," Alfred Lee, associate professor of medicine in hematology, director of the Yale Medical Oncology-Hematology Fellowship Program, and a member of the Yale Cancer Center said.

The investigators behind the study employed proteomic profiling, which is a way to screen for multiple proteins within the blood, and analyzed samples that were taken from 100 patients on the first day of hospital admission who were infected with COVID-19. They also looked at data from an additional 3,000 patients in the Yale New Haven Hospital system.

Findings showed that 5 proteins (resistin, lipocalin-2, HGF, IL-8, and G-CSF) that are associated with a of a type of white blood cell called neutrophils, were elevated in patients who eventually became severely ill. The biomarkers were seen before the patients ever experienced serious symptoms and those who never developed severe symptoms had lower levels of the neutrophils.

The investigators plan on future studies that will continue their research into biomarkers and COVID-19, with the hopes of analyzing patients who have recovered from the disease.

"Patients with high levels of these markers were much more like to require care in the intensive care unit, require ventilation, or die due to their COVID-19," said Dr. Hyung Chun, the lead author on the study said. "We are hoping these findings motivate other groups to look at their own patient populations.”