Austin researchers try to predict who will suffer the most from COVID-19


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two Austin researchers are leading a long-term national study to understand how COVID-19 impacts the immune system and eventually predict who will suffer the most from the virus.

“Our goal in doing research is to try to understand what factors like age and gender, ethnicity and perhaps even different genetic makeup can contribute to the severity of symptoms that people experience,” said Dr. Esther Melamed, assistant professor of Neurology at Dell Medical School.

The study will monitor immune system changes in kids and adults diagnosed with COVID-19 in Austin who agree to be part of the year-long study.

“We start with the person who comes into the hospital or who comes to be tested in an outpatient setting, and we’re following people over the course of the year,” said Melamed.

The research is part of a multi-center COVID-19 research initiative with 15 universities and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The goal is to understand how the immune system can determine “which patients are going to have more severe disease to focus medical attention on them and also to be able to possibly alter the immune response to ensure that patients who could go on to develop a severe disease don’t experience those more severe disease symptoms,” said Dr. Lauren Ehrlich, associate professor of Molecular Biosciences at UT Austin.

The doctors hope the findings will help tailor treatments for COVID-19 patients and save lives.

“We really hope to be able to use that information in the hospital so that when a patient comes in with new onset symptoms, we will have the ability to say, ‘does this patient’s immune system look like they’re going to continue to have an asymptomatic or mild disease? Or does this patient’s immune profile look like they’re going to have severe disease?'” said Melamed.

She continued, “this virus is very interesting and very evil to be able to go to any part of the body.”

If you would like to be part of the research, you can sign up online.

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