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Temple Researchers Help Identify Cytokine Storm in COVID-19 Patients

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Photo: Tim Tai/Staff Photographer

New research from Temple University's Lewis Katz School of Medicine is helping to identify patients who are at a greater risk for one of the most life-threatening reactions to COVID-19.

Doctor Roberto Carricchio, the lead author of the recent study, said more research is needed but their data and criteria are now published online and free to access. Other medical centers can use the information to run their own lab tests and help further validate the criteria and use it to help make decisions on patient treatment.

At least 20% of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 can suffer severe, sometimes deadly complications. But it's difficult to predict who those patients are until it could be until it's too late.

One of those complications is known as cytokine storm.

A cytokine storm is an immune overreaction leading to massive inflammation and organs shutting down.

"It can be the kidney, along with the lungs. It can be the heart along with the lungs or the heart and liver, so it's multi-system organ failure," said Carricchio.

He says once it starts to happen, it's difficult to turn around. So Carricchio and other researchers at Temple University studied lab work and imaging scans of hundreds of patients and homed in on criteria that can predict patients at risk before suffering symptoms.

A subsequent study showed the algorithm they created was able to predict cytokine storm in up to 85% of cases. Treatment can then be given early, increasing a patient's chance for survival.

Dr. Caricchio says they can be more aggressive with steroids or some of the medications still in clinical trials.

"Medications that would not be given otherwise," he said.

Carricchio says more research is needed but their study and criteria are now published online in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Other medical centers can run the same tests to further validate their criteria and use it to make treatment decisions.

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Schedule22 Sep 2023