Potential New Biomarker To Guide Treatment For Severe Covid-19

A new wave of Covid-19 cases driven by the delta variant has arrived. Hospitalizations will follow suit. There is an urgent need to discern which patients will need the most support. Those arriving at the hospital with Covid-19 may have significantly varying outcomes and some hospitalized patients will develop serious symptoms. Biomarkers are badly needed that allow hospitals to allocate scarce resources to save the lives of those most likely to die. A recent report from Zheng et al notes the observation of such a marker in severe Covid-19 patients: a small RNA fragment known as microRNA.

Although it was originally believed that microRNAs, or miRNAs, were a product of eukaryotic cells, over the past few years studies have suggested that some viruses also produce miRNAs as well, some of which are functional like in H5N1 influenza and Dengue viruses. These miRNAs negatively regulate genes that serve as part of the cell’s innate immune recognition of infection. Some miRNAs produced by cells and viruses can be found in host blood circulation. Presumably, miRNAs circulate packaged in exosomes, which bud from the cell surface.

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© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.