LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – Researchers at the University of Louisville report a surprise discovery they believe could give doctors a way to identify patients who are prone to serious effects of the coronavirus, before they become critically ill.
“It really came unexpected,” UofL Immunologist Dr. Jun Yan said. “We didn’t look for those cells. They just came to us. And then we realized, ‘Oh, this is so important.‘”
Yan, a researcher with the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, along with UofL Professor of Anesthesiology Dr. Jiapeng Huang and M.D./Ph.D. student Samantha Morrissey, were conducting a patient study to better understand the most severe cases of COVID-19.
They found the highly elevated presence of immune cells called neutrophils could be a warning sign that a patient could be heading for serious complications, even death.
“Based on this study, we believe that the low-density inflammatory band neutrophil population contributes to COVID-19 associated coagulopathy and could be used as a clinical marker to monitor disease status and progression,” Yan said.
The discovery comes at a time when the latest numbers from the CDC paint a very grim picture for people with pre-existing conditions.
These patients are six times more likely to be hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die from the coronavirus.
According to information released by UofL, “approximately 20 percent of COVID-19 patients experience severe disease, including pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.”
The findings have been published for peer review with the hope that a simple blood test could give doctors the information they need to head off serious complications before they occur.