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Routine blood test may predict risk of death
from COVID-19

A complete blood count can show the risk of death from COVID-19 in patients infected with this virus.
One of the problems with COVID-19 is that when most people have mild to moderate symptoms and get sick at home, a small percentage of infections lead to severe illness and death. Predicting who will have a severe form of the disease is vital so that patients receive the maximum therapy and have the greatest chance of recovery.

A team of Massachusetts General Hospital researchers found that a standard blood test that measures red blood cell volume and size indices can predict whether a patient is likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and the likelihood of dying from the disease.

The team found that patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and having elevated levels of red blood cell distribution by size (RDW) on admission to the hospital were three times more likely to die from this infection compared to those with this value. fine.

In particular, the researchers adjusted for other risk factors for poor outcome from COVID-19, such as older age, but found an increased risk with high RDW levels in all patients.

The RDW test is a standard blood test used as part of a complete blood count in hospitals for the past 50 years and has been used to help diagnose iron deficiency.

"In the last decade, many studies have shown that elevated RDW levels are associated with poor prognosis in a wide range of diseases, including infections, cancer, diseases of the heart, autoimmune diseases, and others. It is not entirely clear why," comments John Higgins, one of the researchers and professor at Harvard Medical School.

Since there was an association of poor prognosis with other diseases, Higgins and his colleagues set out to find out if the poor prognosis in covid patients with high RDW levels was associated.

They studied 1,641 patients with COVID-19 infection in March and April this year, of whom 276 died as a result of the disease before the end of June.

Each patient who was admitted to hospital was examined for an RWD test. Patients who had RDW levels of 14.5% or higher at admission had a 31% risk of dying from infection, compared with an 11% risk for those with normal levels.

One of the hypotheses for covid patients is that a high level of RDW is a non-specific sign that physiological systems are under stress, and the regulatory systems of erythrocytes work in a different mode, in contrast to the norm.

During hospitalization, RDW was repeatedly assessed, and if during the stay in the hospital its level rose, then the risk of death from Covid-19 increased, and it is assumed that this analysis can be used as an indicator of whether the treatment is working or not.

For example, the risk of death in individuals with a normal RDW level when they are admitted to hospital rises from 6% to 24% as the level rises. As well as for those who already had high levels of RDW at the time of admission, their risk of death rises from 22% to 40%.

Scientists are now working on why this simple test can indicate a poor outcome in patients with Covid-19 infection, as well as in other diseases.

Source: Forbes.