Researchers develop new test that tells patients what level of COVID-19 to expect

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – New cutting edge research at MUSC could give patients a little more insight into how COVID-19 could impact them individually.

The new test would tell patients with COVID-19 how bad their experience with the virus will be, and whether they’ll be able to ride it out at home or require a hospital stay.

The complex science behind the research comes down to looking at sugar molecules that are attached to proteins in the bloodstream. Those proteins, called immunoglobulins, fight the virus. The sugars change as the illness develops.

“That change appears to identify those patients who are going to develop a really significant disease,” said Dr. Anand Mehta, a member of the research team and a professor in the pharmacology department at MUSC. “That means they’re going on a ventilator, they’re going to be in a life or death situation as opposed to those patients who really have mild disease that really can just stay home.

All it takes to conduct the test is a few drops of blood. The test is designed to be done after the standard COVID-19 swab test which is also called an RNA test.

“Between when they have an RNA test and before they generate really bad symptoms. Our test is designed to fit in between and say ‘ok, where are you headed.’,” said Dr. Mehta.

This test is still in its early stages at MUSC, but the team hopes to have it up and running within the next several months.

“We’re taking the time, as Dr. Mehta said, to make sure that we are very confident with our results. So at this phase, it is a research test but it can be applied in the future and rapidly scaled up to be used very quickly for multiple patients coming into the hospitals,” said Dr. Peggi Angel, another member of the research team.

Dr. Richard Drake is also a key part of the team developing this test. Dr. Drake is in the Department of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

He says this test will initially benefit people in the lowcountry before eventually reaching a broader crowd.

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