This new blood test predicts which COVID-19 patients will develop severe infection

As the COVID-19 cases continue to shoot up across the globe, scientists are still trying to understand the disease’s behavior to stop it and prevent future outbreaks. 

According to the report, as of mid-August 2020, more than 22M laboratory-confirmed cases have been documented worldwide, with over 770K deaths. To date, numerous possible treatments for COVID-19 have been thrust into the spotlight by public health officials. 

Although it’s public knowledge that the virus develops severe symptoms mostly in patients with comorbidities, weak immune systems, or other underlying conditions, there have been numerous exceptions across the globe. It has been seen that even healthy patients with absolutely no underlying conditions, have developed severe symptoms or even died due to the COVID-19. 

Scoring system for COVID-19 testing

Recently, scientists have developed a scoring system for the first time that can accurately predict which hospitalised patients will develop a severe form of COVID-19. 

The blood test was developed by researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin and the US. It is published in The Lancet’s translational research journal EBioMedicine.

Called as the Dublin-Boston score, the measurement enables clinicians to make more informed decisions when identifying patients who may benefit from therapies, such as steroids, and admission to intensive care units. Previously, clinicians didn’t have any sort of COVID-19-specific prognostic scores to refer to for decision making.  

But now, the blood test measurement can accurately predict how severe the infection will be on Day-7 after measuring the patient’s blood for the first four days. The 4-day change in IL-6:IL-10 ratio was chosen to derive the Dublin-Boston score.

How does it work?

According to the researchers, the blood test works by measuring the levels of two molecules that send messages to the body’s immune system and control inflammation. 

One of these molecules, interleukin (IL)-6, is pro-inflammatory, and a different one, called IL-10, is anti-inflammatory. The levels of both are altered in severe COVID-19 patients. 

Depending on the changes in the ratio of these two molecules over time, researchers have developed a scoring system where each 1-point increase was associated with 5.6 times increased odds for a more severe outcome.

“The Dublin-Boston score is easily calculated and can be applied to all hospitalised Covid-19 patients,” says RCSI Professor of Medicine Gerry McElvaney, the study’s senior author and a consultant in Beaumont Hospital. 

The Dublin-Boston score uses the ratio of IL-6 to IL-10 because it significantly outperformed measuring the change in IL-6 alone. Despite high levels in the blood, using only IL-6 measurements as a COVID-19 prognostic tool is hindered by several factors. IL-6 levels within the same patient vary over any given day, and the magnitude of the IL-6 response to infection varies between different patients. 

Talking about the limitations, researchers say, “This study has inherent limitations. While the number of patients is more than three-fold larger than prior similar studies in medically ill patients, the sample size is still small, and lacks a replication cohort.”

“More informed prognosis could help determine when to escalate or de-escalate care, a key component of the efficient allocation of resources during the current pandemic. The score may also have a role in evaluating whether new therapies designed to decrease inflammation in COVID-19 provide benefit,” he adds.

The research was funded by the Elaine Galwey Research Fellowship, American Thoracic Society, National Institutes of Health, and the Parker B Francis Research Opportunity Award.

Main image credits: Jarun Ontakrai/ Shutterstock

Startups – Silicon Canals

[MeMed in GlobeNewsWire] Prospective Study Finds Potential Utility of MeMed’s Host Immune Technology for Personalizing Treatment of Severe COVID-19 Patients

Researchers at Israel’s Rabin Medical Center (comprised of Beilinson and Hasharon Hospitals) in collaboration with MeMed, have published prospective data on the potential utility of the analysis of IP-10, a host immune biomarker, in managing the care and treatment of patients with severe COVID-19 infection.

Read more here.

The post [MeMed in GlobeNewsWire] Prospective Study Finds Potential Utility of MeMed’s Host Immune Technology for Personalizing Treatment of Severe COVID-19 Patients appeared first on OurCrowd Blog.

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UK’s CMA clears Amazon’s 16% Deliveroo stake, says COVID-19 impact less severe than initially thought

More than a year after Amazon announced that it would be lead a $ 575 million investment into UK food delivery startup Deliveroo, the country’s competition regulator, the CMA, has finally announced that it has provisionally cleared the deal, without any additional remedies (that is, requests to alter the terms), saying that it does not pose any threats to potential competition. The investment, which gives Amazon a 16% stake in Deliveroo, is now being opened up to views and feedback from interested parties one more time, due by July 10, before announcing its final decision on August 6.

The decision only relates to this investment, not to further financial tie-ups between the two, it added: “This decision reflects the 16% shareholding that Amazon is acquiring at the present time,” the CMA notes. “Were Amazon to acquire a greater level of control over Deliveroo, in particular by making a full acquisition of the company, this could trigger a further investigation by the CMA.”

Amazon and Deliveroo have not disclosed the value of its 16% stake, nor Deliveroo’s most current valuation. It was last valued at $ 1.92 billion in November 2017, and our sources tell us that the deal valued the company at around $ 2 billion (in other words, largely flat compared to its valuation in 2017) but that it’s likely that if it raised now it would probably be up at around $ 3 billion or more given business growth in recent months.

The deal comes about two months after the CMA initially indicated that it would be giving a nod to the investment, although — in a weird shift — in the interim period the reasons for approving it have changed.

Back in April, the CMA said that the impact of COVID-19 would have meant that without Amazon’s cash, Deliveroo would have gone bust. Now, however, it has changed its tune, saying that the impact of the health pandemic was not as strong as initially thought on the startup’s business.

Regardless, Stuart McIntosh, who chaired the CMA’s inquiry into the deal, noted other developments in the wider competitive landscape — remember that JustEat and Takeaway.com have now merged and will represent strong competition for Deliveroo and Uber Eats, the other big player — have meant that this deal will not have a negative effect on competition in the food delivery market, specifically competition between Deliveroo and Amazon themselves.

“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic, while initially extremely challenging, has not been as severe for Deliveroo as was anticipated when we reached our initial provisional findings in April,” he noted. “The updated evidence no longer shows that Deliveroo would exit the market in the absence of this transaction. This has required us to re-evaluate our initial provisional findings.

“We’ve carefully considered how this investment could affect competition between the two businesses in future. Looking closely at the size of the shareholding and how it will affect Amazon’s incentives, as well as the competition that the businesses will continue to face in food delivery and convenience groceries, we’ve found that the investment should not have a negative impact on customers.”

In a separate, much longer document detailing the CMA’s findings, it goes into a lot of detail of what competition between the companies on deliveries of food might look like — whether Amazon might ever re-enter into restaurant delivery, or whether Deliveroo might consider grocery delivery, and how having a stake in Deliveroo might impact Amazon’s taste for investing in a new operation. I have to admit, knowing what we know about the barrier to entry into food delivery, and how much consolidation is happening now, it seems like a red herring in terms of a line of inquiry, rather than asking what the impact might be for other large and smaller competitors, but that is where the CMA went:

“There is no evidence to suggest that Amazon is no longer interested in restaurant delivery or that it no longer expects it to be an important area providing benefits such as differentiation in its offering, flywheel effects for Prime, and enhanced logistical capabilities,” it notes.

The development caps off nearly a year of investigations by the Competition and Markets Authority, spurred initially by Labour MP Tom Watson, who had asked the CMA to either impose restrictions on the deal, or to block it outright, not just because of the impact it would have on the competitive landscape, but because of the trove of data Amazon would amass as a result of the deal,.

“It’s called surveillance capitalism,” he said at the time of Amazon’s approach to how it uses data from customers to build and sell products. “It’s a digital dystopia, and I shall be writing to the Competition and Markets Authority demanding they launch an investigation into this ‘investment.’”

The CMA then spent months looking into the numbers on the deal — which would have been Amazon’s only foray itself into ready-made food delivery in the UK, after it shut down its own homegrown effort, Amazon Restaurants, back in 2018 (around the time that it first started eyeing up Deliveroo). But that investigation took on several more twists in the last few months.

The first twist came in the form of COVID-19, which brought much of the economy to a grinding halt. While many have seen e-commerce and the sub-section of food delivery as two areas that could flourish — since people were significantly homebound and restaurants were closed — it appeared that in fact business seemed to be dragging, as people opted to reduce exposure even to contactless deliveries, leading to a big decline in demand.

That led the CMA to determine that “Deliveroo would have exited the market without [the Amazon investment], because of the negative impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on its business. The CMA considered that the imminent exit of Deliveroo would have been worse for competition than allowing the Amazon investment to proceed.”

However, Deliveroo made cuts (including 15% of staff) and on a closer examination, “Deliveroo’s finances shows considerable improvement in its financial position, reflecting, in part, changes which were not foreseeable during the early stages of the pandemic,” the CMA noted. This means that no Amazon deal would not have killed the company, so then attention turned to competition between the two businesses as a result of the investment.

The CMA said it surveyed 3,000 consumers, read submissions from third parties and examined internal documents from the two companies, and without going into detail of what kind of competition might ever exist in future between the two — especially considering that Amazon has already pulled out of food delivery in the UK — it determined that a deal wouldn’t preclude competition per se, based on Deliveroo’s interest in restaurant food delivery and Amazon’s existing business in grocery delivery, which in the UK currently includes both Amazon Fresh and a small Whole Foods footprint, but could potentially expand into more.

“This minority investment is good news for UK customers and restaurants, and for the British economy,” a Deliveroo spokesperson said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “As we have argued for the past year, since the beginning of the CMA’s investigation, the minority investment will enable British born, British bred Deliveroo to compete against well-capitalised overseas rivals and continue to innovate for customers, riders and restaurants. As the British economy recovers from the damage caused by COVID-19, a stable regulatory environment is critical. We therefore urge the CMA to conclude their review as swiftly as possible.”

More to come.

Startups – TechCrunch