Currently, there is no efficient way to predict how the immune system will respond to COVID-19 exposure. The immune response could range from mild symptoms, all the way to severe symptoms, which can lead to, unfortunately, intensive care unit or even death.
Researchers from George Washington University have developed a new test based on whole-blood RNA-seq that is not only able to diagnose COVID-19 infection but predicts how severely the immune system will react to the infection.
According to the authors of the new study
, led by Prof. McCaffrey, the findings could one day lead to a powerful tool to help doctors determine the best treatment plan for people with COVID-19.
At its core, the study consisted in examining whole blood RNA through RNA-seq and trying to link the obtained transcriptomic signatures to the various symptoms and prognosis.
The researchers found clear associations between the severity COVID-19 infection and neutrophil and T-cell activity.
To note, neutrophils and T-cells, both a type of white blood cell, are part of the body’s immune system and help fight off infections and the study indicates that measuring white blood cell activity through RNA-seq can be an effective way to estimate the severity of the infection and the actual danger for the patient.
Interestingly, previous research by Prof. McCaffrey [1
]identified RNA biomarkers for other types of infection in patients with inflammatory conditions such as appendicitis and pneumonia.
Similar to their more recent findings with COVID patients, when they measured RNA levels in the patients’ blood, they detected an increase in neutrophil-related RNAs
This suggest that the developed method could be a general one, capable of finding interesting applications beyond COVID-19.
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