The Menarini International Foundation at the forefront of promoting the culture of prevention and scientific education on COVID-19.
A simple blood test could help detect which patients are most at risk of developing serious forms of COVID-19 beforehand.
This is the purpose of an experimental study underway at the University of Milan Luigi Sacco Hospital and the European Institute of Oncology in Lombardy’s capital. The endothelium, the tissue lining our blood vessels, is a target for coronavirus; the resulting endothelial damage induces a release of endothelial cells into the bloodstream. The more severe the damage, the more endothelial cells are found in the blood. Measuring these cells can therefore be an important tool for assessing the severity and progression of COVID-19.
The preliminary results of the study obtained with the first 17 patients were presented during the online conference “Real-Time Monitoring of Endothelial Damage during COVID-19. Why is it needed?”, organised by the Menarini International Foundation.
The data suggest that identifying and counting circulating endothelial cells (CEC) during SARS-CoV-2 virus infection, using standardised and reproducible methods, could act as a valuable measure of the severity and progression of the disease. A significant increase in the number of CECs could precede clinical progression, and therefore guide the choice of more effective therapeutic strategies which can reduce the onset of severe and/or even fatal complications such as those of a vascular and thrombotic nature.
According to Massimo Galli, head of the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Luigi Sacco Hospital and co-chair of the digital conference, COVID-19 cannot be defined only as a pulmonary disease, and “vascular and thrombotic complications are one of the most important causes of mortality from COVID, which has been difficult to predict up to now”.
Galli also explains that being able to measure endothelial damage plays a strategic role in the challenge of treating late-stage COVID-19 because, if left untreated, it is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving remission of the disease.
However, its value in predicting the disease’s severity has yet to be fully clarified and confirmed. Agostino Riva, Sacco’s infectious disease specialist and coordinator of the study, states that “the possibility of measuring circulating endothelial cells via a simple blood test is a potential bio-marker for choosing the most appropriate therapies and reducing fatal complications”. However, he stresses that “its value in predicting the disease’s severity has yet to be fully clarified and confirmed”. The next step, Riva explains, will be “to study these hypotheses, measuring these cells at all stages of the disease and during recovery to understand how they relate to its severity and the success of therapy in larger clinical trials”.
By organising this conference, the Menarini International Foundation once again affirms its great commitment to guaranteeing authoritative tools to provide up-to-date information and online training to all health professionals worldwide. After creating the Coronavirus Library – a free virtual library with authoritative publications constantly updated on the novel coronavirus, supervised by Nobel laureate Louis J. Ignarro – Fondazione Menarini’s journey continues in promoting the culture of prevention and scientific education on new SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) in Italy and worldwide.