Researchers at the University of São Paulo have identified proteins in the blood of Covid-19 patients that may suggest whether they are more prone to developing severe coronavirus infections.
The study collected plasma samples from 163 patients admitted to Bauru State Hospital between May and July last year. The scientists found distinct changes between the groups in plasma proteins related to blood coagulation, antimicrobial humoral response, acute inflammatory response, and endopeptidase inhibitor activity.
Patients with mild symptoms had higher levels of proteins IREB2, GELS, POLR3D, PON, and ULBP6 upon admission to hospital, while higher levels of Gal-10 were found in critical and severe patients.
The study was published on medical platform MedRxiv and is yet to be peer reviewed. However, researchers are optimistic that their discoveries could help develop new Covid-19 treatments. Marília Rabelo Buzalaf, one of the authors of the study, told Agencia FAPESP that the Gal-10 protein is linked to the death of defense cells and could indicate a weakness in the immune system. This may suggest that individuals who carry this marker could develop more severe cases of Covid-19.
On the other hand, the proteins found in mild cases could help the development of treatments. One such example is the IREB2 protein, which prevents a steep increase in ferritin levels. As ferritin is associated with uncontrolled inflammation, increasing the levels of IREB2 in a patient’s blood could help to avoid the “cytokine storm” that is one of the most severe characteristics of Covid-19.