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This One Thing Could Predict if You'll Die From Coronavirus

Researchers have found three crucial biomarkers of COVID-19 in blood.
Woman holding test tube with blood sample

Ever since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, doctors have been scrambling to determine why the highly infectious virus sickens some people worse than others. Why are many individuals completely asymptomatic, while others end up hooked up to a respirator fighting for their lives? A new body of research claims whether you live or die once infected with coronavirus might have to do with one thing: your blood. 

A new study out of Wuhan, China and published in the medical journal Nature Machine Intelligence promises that you can accurately predict the severity of a COVID case more than 10 days ahead of time with up to 90 percent accuracy based on three biological markers—all determined by a single drop of blood. 

Analyzing the blood samples of 485 infected patients, researchers pinpointed three "crucial predictive biomarkers of disease mortality." 

  1. Relatively high levels of lactic dehydrogenase (LDH), which signify "tissue breakdown occurring in various diseases, including pulmonary disorders such as pneumonia."
  2. Low levels of lymphocytes—aka Lymphopenia—one of the three types of white blood cells that fight against bacteria, viruses, and parasites in order to protect immunity. 
  3. An increase in high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), which signifies inflammation in the lungs. 

"In particular, relatively high levels of LDH alone seem to play a crucial role in distinguishing the vast majority of cases that require immediate medical attention," the researchers write. "This finding is consistent with current medical knowledge that high LDH levels are associated with tissue breakdown occurring in various diseases, including pulmonary disorders such as pneumonia." 

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How does this new study signify a major breakthrough in the universal battle against COVID-19, which has infected nearly 5 million people worldwide and killed over 315,000?

"It provides a simple and intuitive clinical test to precisely and quickly quantify the risk of death," explains the study authors. One single blood test can arm medical experts with "a simple and operable decision rule to quickly predict patients at the highest risk." With this knowledge, they can then prioritize the high risk patients and more effectively treat them, "potentially reducing the mortality rate." 

It also encourages targeting lymphocytes as a "potential therapeutic target." Other clinical studies have also pinpointed the white blood cells as playing a distinct role in the virus. 

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