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Doctors Can Determine Patients Who Will Get Severe Forms of COVID-19

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Dr Hakim Sendagire, a microbiologist based at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences told URN in an interview on Tuesday morning that they have studied five laboratory tests that can be used to determine the chances of one developing critical illness and when it is right to introduce certain treatments since some COVID positives may not require any form of medicines.
COVID has killed millions of people across the world

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Researchers recommend conducting specific tests on people who test positive for COVID-19 to determine whether or not they will deteriorate into severe disease.

Dr Hakim Sendagire, a microbiologist based at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences told URN in an interview on Tuesday morning that they have studied five laboratory tests that can be used to determine the chances of one developing critical illness and when it is right to introduce certain treatments since some COVID positives may not require any form of medicines.

In these tests, health workers measure a number of specific chemicals in the body that help them determine the nature of the disease one will get. One of the tests measures proteins since the SARS – COV- 2 virus that causes COVID-19 tends to trigger an increase of proteins. 

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Sendagire who was releasing results of a study in which he analyzed clinical chemistry, haematology and other laboratory profiles of COVID-19 patients admitted in Mulago, Entebbe and Masaka hospitals says their findings are aimed at guiding clinical management especially in an event that the anticipated third wave comes with a lot of critically ill patients.

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He says these tests will help to cushion against a large number of people getting ill abruptly and overwhelming the health system that was seen in the previous wave which saw the death toll from the disease skyrocketing from just about 300 people by end of 2020 to over 3,000 people by end of September.

However, this study funded by Makerere University Research and Innovation Fund (MAK- RIF) comes at a time when there are no clear criteria on pointers used to determine both patients that may progress into the severe disease at the point of testing and at what point medicines like steroids can be introduced to a patient.

Previously especially in the first wave, interventions would be based on what was being used elsewhere, a reason why the country started by using since discontinued medicines such as hydroxychloroquine and some point explored use of blood plasma in treatment which in the end didn’t show impact on treatment outcomes.

Citing dexamethasone, which was highly misused early in the pandemic until the Ministry of Health issued guidelines for the steroid to only be used under prescription, researchers say that when this drug is introduced early on, it risks the patient into acquiring diabetes yet when introduced very late when one is battling the critical disease, it can also be very problematic.

Now the doctor says healthcare workers should adopt the use of evolving laboratory tools such as neutralizing antibodies in the assessment of individual immune status, determining disease severity and exact time of starting treatment especially for those living with other co-morbidities such as HIV, cancer and diabetes.

But, on another note, these tests are quite expensive and may not be afforded by all health facilities handling COVID-19 patients. Sendagire says each test could go for between 60, 000 and 100, 000 Shillings which can also be repetitive driving the cost of diagnosis even higher.

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