(NEW YORK POST) – Australian researchers say they could soon have a blood test that will predict which coronavirus patients are going to need the most intensive care — so front-line doctors can make faster, more accurate decisions about who should get desperately needed resources.
“It’s not enough just to know that they are infected. We need to know which patient you can send home and which patient you should admit to hospital or which patient you need to refer to ICU,” Dr. Benjamin Tang, one of the lead scientists on the project, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The test would be invaluable in cities such as New York, where healthcare workers have compared local hospitals to “war zones” as they are flooded with patients amid scarce resources.
The scientists, including some from the University of Sydney’s Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, said the development of such a test would normally take about five years — but they’re trying to fast-track it so it would be ready in five weeks.
“The virus is moving fast, much faster than we can manage,” Tang said. “Every minute that goes past, someone else in the world is dying. We really need to get this out as soon as possible.”
The test would work by looking for a biomarker in the blood that currently serves as an early warning sign for a patient at high risk for the flu. Its presence would indicate whether the person is at risk for severe complications from the coronavirus and needs immediate hospital care, the researchers said.
The scientists started a crowdfunding campaign Monday, saying they need the money to process 500 blood samples to show whether the test works.
They also will still need government approval.
“It is still very preliminary,” Tang acknowledged.
But Stuart Tangye, a professor at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, told the Herald that the test “is something potentially to get excited about,” although “it certainly needs validation in a large number of patients.”