Coronavirus

Blood markers aid in coronavirus patient monitoring, researchers say

Indiana lawmakers joined together for an annual competition aimed at donating blood to save those in need. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Blood cell markers may play a key role in monitoring COVID-19 progression and recovery, health experts suggest.  

In a report published in The Lancet, researchers from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology along with five other Wuhan-based institutions, collected data from a total of 80 patients infected with the coronavirus. Sixty-nine were classified as severe COVID-19 cases. Eleven cases were considered non-severe. Patients’ ages ranged between 26 and 86 years old and 52% were female.  

Upon admission to the hospital, those severely infected had higher levels of what’s called interleukin-6 (IL-6). IL-6 is an immunity protein produced in the body that can either exacerbate inflammation or lessen it.

Authors also tracked IL-6 levels through the patients’ stay and found a link between IL-6 levels and time lapse from diagnosis to cure. The lower the level to begin with, the sooner the patient recovered from the coronavirus.  

“Elevated…IL-6 [levels] are associated with longer treatment periods and more intensive treatment including glucocorticoids, human immunoglobulin, stronger antibiotics or a ventilator,” authors said in the report.

Glucocorticoids are a type of corticosteroid–medications designed to reduce inflammation in the body. Human immunoglobulin is a medication used to strengthen the body’s immune response to an infection and is made by human blood.

Research to date supports a link between COVID-19 and high levels of inflammation. Thus, monitoring inflammatory levels, specifically IL-6, could be useful in tracking patient recovery.

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