Analysing urine samples of Covid-19 patients can help predict the disease’s severity, according to researchers. The study, led by researchers from Wayne State University in Detroit, US, revealed elevated levels of specific biomarkers of the immune system compared to those who were not infected with the coronavirus. In addition, levels of these inflammatory markers were higher in patients with comorbidities such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Researchers said they undertook this study in hopes of determining whether biomarkers of Covid-19 could predict which individuals will develop “overly exuberant immune responses,” also called a cytokine storm.

They chose to screen the urine of Covid-19 patients because of its non-invasive nature that doesn’t require the use of needles or blood samples.

Scientists said they hope the results of this study will translate to a regular screening process for Covid-19 patients to predict who is more likely to develop severe disease and to aid in a successful treatment strategy.

The findings will be presented virtually at the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2021.

Meanwhile, in a separate study, Australian researchers have identified neutralising nanobodies that block the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering cells in preclinical models, an advance that paves the way for investigations into nanobody-based treatments for Covid-19.

Nanobodies -Tiny immune proteins — can provide an alternative to conventional antibody treatments for Covid-19.

By mapping nanobodies, the research team led by Wai-Hong Tham, Associate Professor at WEHI in Victoria, Australia, was able to identify a nanobody that recognised the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including emerging global variants of concern.

The nanobody also recognised the original SARS-CoV virus (which causes SARS), indicating it may provide cross-protection against these two human coronaviruses, the researchers said.

“In the wake of Covid-19, there is a lot of discussion about pandemic preparedness. Nanobodies that are able to bind to other human beta-coronaviruses — including SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV and MERS — could prove effective against future coronaviruses as well,” Tham said.

For the study, published in the journal PNAS, the team examined a group of alpacas — a species of South American camelid mammal — in regional Victoria The species are known to produce nanobodies naturally in response to infection.

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