Patients will soon be able to take a rapid blood test/finger prick test to predict COVID-19 disease severity, thanks in part to the work of Dr Arutha Kulasinghe.
Arutha leads the Spatial biology and liquid biopsy group at the University of Queensland (UQ), and is a pioneer in spatial transcriptomics. His work has contributed to world-first studies for cancer and COVID-19. Arutha currently holds a Conjoint Grant with Associate Professor Brett Hughes, where they are looking at Identification of predictive biomarkers for immune checkpoint blockade in head and neck cancer.
The work on COVID-19 includes:
1. Identifying a ‘cell fitness marker’ to determine a patient’s likely need for hospitalisation from COVID-19 infection
2. Identifying a gene signature of COVID-19 disease severity
“The second study has really come about because of our work in head and neck cancers, in particular, learned applications of spatial biology directly to COVID-19 tissues,” says Arutha. “We’ve now tested and validated the gene in 1000 nasal and blood samples and it appears to be strongly predictive of COVID-19 disease severity.”
The blood test is being commercialised by a Sydney-based company, and can be used in the early stages of symptom onset (within the first 10 days of infection) to help identify which patients will need hospitalisation/ICU.
“We believe this work will be important for studies down the track in cancer, more specifically head and neck cancers. The lessons learned in the immunological understanding of COVID-19 presentation will enable us to gain new knowledge in how this might affect head and neck cancer patients.”
Congratulations again to Dr Kulasinghe and his team on this innovative work.