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Researchers discover biomarker that could help early detection of high-risk COVID-19 patients

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Led by computer scientists at WEHI, in collaboration with the University of Queensland, the Queensland University of Technology and the Marcelino Champagnat Hospital in Brazil, the study used advanced spatial transcriptomics techniques to screen for associated genes. to excessive inflammation of the lungs, a key indicator of severe COVID-19[FEMININE[FEMININE

Recently published in the European Respiratory Journal the findings have the potential to revolutionize the way patients are treated and ease the strain on the nation’s healthcare system.

Researchers are now participating in an international effort to translate this research into a diagnostic test to identify patients at high risk for severe COVID-19 during the early stages of their infection, to better target healthcare interventions and prevent admissions in intensive care associated with serious illness.

In one look

  • Researchers have identified a way to determine if a Covid-19 patient will become seriously ill by studying changes in inflammation in the lungs
  • The IFI27 gene, known to be activated by the immune system in response to viruses, has been shown to predict disease progression and is strongly associated with disease severity
  • A diagnostic test is under development to help healthcare professionals identify patients who are likely to need further treatment, before their condition worsens.

Early marker of serious illness

The research team collected samples from 30 patients in three groups: 10 patients with COVID-19, 10 with H1N1 influenza and 10 uninfected.

Dr Chin Wee Tan said the team were able to generate a gene transcription landscape showing how different parts of the lung are affected in each scenario.

“Only a limited number of biomarkers have been shown to be significantly upregulated in the lungs of COVID-19 patients, compared to patients with influenza. The presence of the IFI27 gene was a reliable prediction of severe lung inflammation, ”Dr. Tan said.

“Our multi-cohort follow-up study showed that the expression of IFI27 biomarker in COVID-19 patients can predict disease progression and is strongly associated with disease severity.

Associate Professor Melissa Davis said the discovery would pave the way for the development of a diagnostic test, so patients at high risk for severe COVID-19 can be triage and treated early.

“When a patient comes to a clinic, we can assess the severity of their symptoms by measuring the IF127 in the blood regardless of their symptoms, ”Associate Professor Davis said.

“Such early detection of high-risk patients will help improve patient triage; not only during the current pandemic, but also potentially during future viral pandemics. “

New tools for future pandemics

Associate Professor Davis said the new Nanostring GeoMX technology and the analytical approaches developed by his team have been crucial in better understanding how COVID-19 affects lung tissue.

“We used a technique called spatial transcriptomics, which allows us to add extra dimensions to the information we can collect from samples,” she said.

“It can capture the location and diversity of tissue in a way that is not possible with other technologies. In this case, it provides a more in-depth picture of the cellular changes induced by a viral infection. It allowed us to define the host’s response to the virus and the spatial relationships between the lung and cells infected with a virus. “


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