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Vancouver study analyzes which COVID-19 patients are at greatest risk of organ failure

UBC study aims to help identify COVID-19 patients in need of critical care.
By: Stewart Wiseman
July 15, 2020
Photo: Tamea Burd Photograph

A team of researchers from the University of British Columbia is working to identify which COVID-19 patients are likely to require serious medical interventions. Led by Dr. Bob Hancock, the research is focused on how to quickly diagnose which patients are more likely to develop severe sepsis. Sepsis, which can cause organ failure, has been identified as one of the primary COVID-19 infection effects leading to mortality. “Sepsis actually kills nearly 20 percent of all people on the planet," says Dr. Hancock. "It’s 11-million deaths every year and it seems to be triggered especially by COVID.” Dr. Hancock's research recently received a federal grant, and the researchers will use RNA sequencing of positive COVID-19 samples to identify the people most vulnerable to sepsis. The research aims to examine the complete gene expression profiles of patients who are severely ill with COVID-19.

The UBC study aims to predict which patients are more likely to have a severe reaction to the virus, in order to prioritize those patients for life-saving care. Dr. Hancock notes that being able to identify which patients are likely to suffer from sepsis would "make a major impact on not just treatment, but the way you divide resources in a hospital." "It would enable a physician to have better tools to predict the course of disease, figure out what sorts of treatments, might or might not work, and in the long run, I guess save lives.” Although COVID-19 primarily affects the lungs, Dr. Hancock notes that recent studies have shown that patients who have died suffered damage to their liver, kidneys, and heart as well. The team of a dozen researchers from British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario expect preliminary results to be available within three months.

Source: NEWS1130 Vancouver

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