The blood of someone with coronavirus could provide clues as to how ill they are likely to become, researchers say.
People infected with Sars-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, respond differently to the infection.
Some do not develop any symptoms, while some need to be admitted to hospital, and for others the disease is fatal.
In the study, published in Cell Systems, researchers found 27 potential biomarkers that are present in different levels in patients with Covid-19, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
The markers could help doctors to predict how ill a patient will become and provide scientists with new targets for drug development.
Biomarkers are biological molecules found in blood, other body fluids or tissues that are a sign of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease.
Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute and Charite – Universitatsmedizin Berlin refined analysis of a method called mass spectrometry to rapidly test for the presence and quantity of various proteins in the blood plasma.
This platform was used to analyse serum of 31 Covid-19 patients at the Berlin University Hospital Charite.
Their results were further validated in 17 patients with Covid-19 at the same hospital and in 15 healthy people.
The researchers hope their findings will lead to the development of simple routine tests to check for the levels for one or some of these proteins in patients with the disease.
The test results could be used to support doctors in deciding what treatment to give, the scientists say.
Christoph Messner, one of the lead authors and postdoc in the Molecular Biology of Metabolism Laboratory at the Crick, said: “A test to help doctors predict whether a Covid-19 patient is likely to become critical or not would be invaluable.
“It will help them make decisions about how to best manage the disease for each patient as well as identify those most at risk.
“We hope the biomarkers we’ve identified will lead to the development of these vitally needed tests.”
Three of the key proteins that the team identified were associated with interleukin IL-6, a protein which causes inflammation, a known marker for severe symptoms.
The researchers suggest it may be possible to alleviate some of these symptoms by using drugs that target these associated proteins.