Doctors treating coronavirus patients have seen symptoms range from mild to severe, or in some cases completely asymptomatic.
But what if there was a test to determine how sick a particular patient would get from the virus?
Scientists and physicians in Orlando are working on developing a new rapid blood test that tests the immune system of patients, and could determine their specific response to COVID-19.
“It takes a minute to do, you can do it on a finger prick,” Dr. Devendra Mehta said.
Dr. Mehta, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, is leading the team of researchers. Their group acquired funding and technology from a local life science company called Nanodiscovery Inc.
The blood test predicts the severity of illness, and is based off of previous work done with the Zika virus and Dengue Fever.
Dr. Mehta explained when a virus attacks, the body has two lines of protection, and many people have built up a strong first response. Once a virus breaks through the first response, the severity of the disease gets much worse.
“We figured that if we can figure out how well your first response is it will tell you how safe you are, if not it will tell you how at risk you are, so either way it will help you,” Dr. Mehta said.
Dr. Mehta’s team is currently gathering data from 163 patients diagnosed with COVID-19. So far tests from the data collected have isolated mild cases from those that are moderate or severe, just as predicted.
The researchers are working to secure national funding to expand their testing to include healthy patients seeking answers about their own immunity, or the immunity of family members. Dr. Mehta said he hoped the test will be more available in six to nine months.
“It may be that working on this virus will help us with many other diseases and at the end of the day we will recoup the losses as a human race, I suspect that’s what is going to happen,” Dr. Mehta said.