Blood Test May Show the ones at Risk of Severe COVID

If you’re unfortunate enough to be admitted to your hospital with COVID-19, a typical blood marker may predict how severe your illness might become. New research shows.

The blood marker is named “red cell distribution width” (RDW) — basically, the greater the variance within the measurements of red blood cells, the poorer an individual’s prognosis, the study authors explained.

A COVID-19 patient’s RDW test result “was positively correlated with patient mortality, and the correlation persisted when controlling for other identified risk factors like patient age, several other lab tests, and some pre-existing illnesses.

The newest study was published online Sept. 23 in JAMA Network Open and was led by Dr. John Higgins, a pathologist investigator during the hospital and associate professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School.

“We desired to help find approaches to identify high-risk COVID patients early and easily that is likely to become severely ill that will take advantage of aggressive interventions, and which hospitalized patients will probably get worse most quickly,” Higgins said in a hospital news release.

To take action, they looked at blood tests for more than 1,600 adults identified as having SARS-CoV-2 infection who’d been admitted to at least one of four Boston-area hospitals in March and April 2020.

Higgins, along with his team, had expected that they might need to ferret out some obscure blood marker that may predict poor outcomes from COVID-19. But they quickly unearthed that RDW — already used in standard blood tests — easily suit you perfectly.

In reality, patients whose RDW values were above the normal range once they were first admitted to your hospital had a danger of death that was 2.7 times compared to patients whose test outcomes were in the normal range, the researchers found. Overall, 31% of patients with above-normal RDW test outcomes died compared with 11% of the with expected RDW test outcomes.

And in case an individual’s RDW rate was standard upon admission but then slowly started initially to rise to above-normal levels, that correlated with an increase within the patient’s odds of death, the research found.


Blood Test May Show Who Is at Risk of Severe COVID.

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