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Predicting outcomes of COVID-19 from admission biomarkers: a prospective UK cohort study


Introduction COVID-19 has an unpredictable clinical course, so prognostic biomarkers would be invaluable when triaging patients on admission to hospital. Many biomarkers have been suggested using large observational datasets but sample timing is crucial to ensure prognostic relevance. The DISCOVER study prospectively recruited patients with COVID-19 admitted to a UK hospital and analysed a panel of putative prognostic biomarkers on the admission blood sample to identify markers of poor outcome.

Methods Consecutive patients admitted to hospital with proven or clinicoradiological suspected COVID-19 were consented. Admission bloods were extracted from the clinical laboratory. A panel of biomarkers (interleukin-6 (IL-6), soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (suPAR), Krebs von den Lungen 6, troponin, ferritin, lactate dehydrogenase, B-type natriuretic peptide, procalcitonin) were performed in addition to routinely performed markers (C reactive protein (CRP), neutrophils, lymphocytes, neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio). Age, National Early Warning Score (NEWS2), CURB-65 and radiographic severity score on initial chest radiograph were included as comparators. All biomarkers were tested in logistic regression against a composite outcome of non-invasive ventilation, intensive care admission or death, with area under the curve (AUC) (figures calculated).

Results 187 patients had 28-day outcomes at the time of analysis. CRP (AUC: 0.69, 95% CI: 0.59 to 0.78), lymphocyte count (AUC: 0.62, 95% CI: 0.53 to 0.72) and other routine markers did not predict the primary outcome. IL-6 (AUC: 0.77, 0.65 to 0.88) and suPAR (AUC: 0.81, 0.72 to 0.88) showed some promise, but simple clinical features alone such as NEWS2 score (AUC: 0.70, 0.60 to 0.79) or age (AUC: 0.70, 0.62 to 0.77) performed nearly as well.

Discussion Admission blood biomarkers have only moderate predictive value for predicting COVID-19 outcomes, while simple clinical features such as age and NEWS2 score outperform many biomarkers. IL-6 and suPAR had the best performance, and further studies should focus on the additive value of these biomarkers to routine care.

  • infectious diseases
  • SARS
  • respiratory
  • pneumonia/infections

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Although we are unable to share raw data, the analytic code is available at

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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