Press release

Simple blood test could transform Covid patient care

Published on 18 March 2021

A simple test to identify patients at increased risk of death from Covid-19 could be a step closer thanks to a funding grant made by the University of Dundee.

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Professor James Chalmers, from the University’s School of Medicine, has been awarded £32,000 to develop a test to measure levels of calprotectin, a potential indicator in Covid-19 mortality.

The award has been made possible by public donations to the University’s own Coronavirus Research Fundraising Campaign, established last June to assist the scientific community with its research into the disease.

Though vaccines have been developed and are currently being administered throughout the world, the pandemic continues to claim lives. Among the most challenging of aspects for healthcare professionals in treating Covid-19 patients is predicting those who are likely to deteriorate, with no current biomarkers routinely used to help identify at-risk patients.

Professor Chalmers and his team hope to develop a test that can detect the antimicrobial complex calprotectin, the release of which indicates the potentially harmful presence of neutrophil extracellular traps. Commonly known as NETosis, these are increasingly recognised as a factor in the severity of illness experienced by Covid-19 patients.

Professor Chalmers and his team will take blood samples from patients with Covid-19 and will work with a clinical team to determine whether a rapid “point of care” test is effective and reliable in recognising calprotectin, with the potential to give patients peace of mind and better treatment.

Professor Chalmers said, “We are delighted to receive this award, particularly knowing that this funding was provided by the generous support of members of the public.

“Our team have looked after many hundreds of patients in hospital with Covid-19 during this pandemic and one of the most difficult aspects is that while most people will recover completely, around a quarter of people admitted to hospital will get worse and end up needing to be treated with extra drugs or require a ventilator.

“Thanks to research conducted last year, we think we have found a simple blood test that can spot which people are going to get severe Covid-19, which would let us give better and earlier treatment. But we first need to prove that it works and that we can give results to doctors quickly enough to make a difference. This study will test exactly that.”

The University of Dundee Coronavirus Research Fundraising Campaign was launched to assist the scientific community with research that allows us to better understand Covid-19, and future coronaviruses.

Donations from the public, whatever the size, allow our scientists to be nimble by having the funds to follow emerging concepts and ideas quickly. This could help to ensure that we never have to endure the painful separation from loved ones and sacrifice of our day-to-day lives again as we have seen in the current pandemic.

Anyone who wishes to make a donation and support coronavirus research at the University of Dundee can do so here.


Jonathan Watson

Senior Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 381489
Story category Covid, Fundraising