Blood test could track immune response to coronavirus, researchers say

A blood test could help track a person’s immune response to coronavirus, a new study suggests.

This could allow doctors to identify at an early stage who might need additional treatment or critical care, and guide treatment strategies.

The team identified what they call the immunological signature of the disease, based on preliminary analysis of 60 Covid-19 patients at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Within this, a small set of factors, or clues, could be used to identify the patients most likely to do worse and require additional treatment, the study suggests.

The changes we’ve observed in the blood are not subtle and patients with these features seem more likely to experience severe disease, requiring intensive management

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute, King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust are looking at patients’ blood to see how the immune system responds to coronavirus.

They are also looking at how the virus throws a spanner into the immunological works.

Project lead Adrian Hayday, who heads the Crick’s Immunosurveillance Laboratory and is professor of immunobiology at King’s College London, said: “The changes we’ve observed in the blood are not subtle and patients with these features seem more likely to experience severe disease, requiring intensive management.”

Researchers hope such a blood test could be more broadly applied in hospitals to seek early indications of patient condition, and to effectively help prioritise treatments.

The scientists say their findings on how Covid-19 affects the body could also help inform studies looking to develop effective treatments and vaccines.

As part of the ongoing study, called Covid-IP, patients at Guy’s and St Thomas’ who have agreed to donate to an infectious disease biobank provide regular blood samples during their treatment for Covid-19.

These are processed in secure containment at Guy’s Hospital before the composition and properties of immune cells are analysed in the team’s laboratories at King’s College London and at the Crick.

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