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Your Health: New blood test could be a game-changer in COVID treatments

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 5:29 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. -- More people died of COVID in 2021 than in 2020.

New federal data reports the number of deaths in the United States caused by the virus topper more than 770,000 -- more than doubling the first year the virus spread through the country.

Jan. 10, 2022: Coronavirus Report: Michigan reports 44,524 cases, 56 deaths over the past three days

What if doctors could know if you’re at a higher risk? Could more lives be saved?

“We came up with an analysis to try to distinguish the genes that can predict what are the patients who are going to progress and die from the disease,” said Dr. Jose Herazo-Maya, with USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

The patients tend to have very scarred lungs, triggering an immune reaction similar to the same scarring seen in a patient who had a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

“If we could use the knowledge of IPF and apply it to COVID-19, to try to expedite the development of a good predictor test, or maybe even treatments, then that would’ve saved lives right in times and money too,” Herazo-Maya said.

Using a simple blood test from IPF patients, pulmonologist Herazo-Maya found 52 genes that predicted a patient’s mortality. For COVID, 50 of those genes are matches.

“Basically, out of every four patients, you can predict mortality correctly in three,” Herazo-Maya said. “If you have a high-risk profile, that means that we have to be more aggressive with your care.”

Allowing doctors to personalize treatment, drugs and doses for each patient. Larger clinical trials are underway and Herazo-Maya hopes to decrease the number of genes needed to be tested, so this blood test could be used in any country around the world.

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