COVID-19 Can Cause Serious Organ Problems

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A new leaked memo reveals that coronavirus patients who become seriously ill may damage much more than their lungs and respiratory system. It may also affect many other organs including the kidneys, heart and brain, putting even more stress on the country’s organ transplant sector.

These revelations arose from a conference call of more than 80 senior NHS doctors. The summary of this call was included in a 1,000-word memo by Dr Daniel Martin, head of intensive care for serious infectious diseases at the Royal Free Hospital.

The memo, which has been disclosed in the Financial Times 1, was intended to divulge information about how best to take care of COVID-19 patients.

It uncovered how COVID-19 was not simply a one-organ disease that attacked the lungs and caused respiratory failure, but was actually a multi-organ disease that was also causing “high rates” of acute kidney failure due to difficulties in treating the virus.

This view is shared by Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, who told the Financial Times that, with COVID-19 “once you become really ill, more than your lungs will suffer”.

A few days ago, Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre found that of 690 UK coronavirus patients in intensive care, 18.5% required renal (kidney) support.

Dr Martin stated there would be a “higher-than-predicted need” for kidney treatments.

Furthermore, many prominent UK hospitals, including King’s College Hospital, were without essential equipment in ICU’s, including blood dialysis machines needed to treat patients suffering from COVID-19-related kidney failure.

Fundamentally, NHS staff are struggling to treat the number of coronavirus patients with kidney related issues due to shortages in medical equipment and devices.

Many of these patients may have or develop at a future date, dialysis dependant renal failure, for which kidney transplantation is the only cure.

Yet despite the expected increase in demand for kidney transplants, major transplant centres have stopped performing many of their procedures due to insufficient resources. ‘NHS Blood and Transplant’ have been quoted as saying a complete cessation “may only be days away” 2.

The suspension of kidney transplant procedures is particularly ominous as many British patients were unnecessarily dying on waiting lists for kidney transplants even before the coronavirus pandemic emerged.

In 2018/19, 260 patients died on the organ transplant waiting list while waiting for a kidney transplant in the UK, which is by far the highest number of waiting list deaths compared to other organs. 3

Meanwhile, a huge number of donor kidneys are unnecessarily being discarded in the UK. 4 5 Remarkably, a recent study found that 65% of discarded kidneys were either usable or possibly usable. 6

These kidneys were being discarded simply because we do not currently possess reliable methods to be able to assess donor organs before transplant.

We need very reliable methods to assess (and improve) the condition of donor kidneys to ensure that patients receive a safe transplant with a good long-term outcome.

This is where Imperial College spinout Accunea, a continuous, real-time biochemistry monitoring company, could make a significant difference.

Accunea has developed a cutting-edge solution – a small bedside device called RenoSure, which monitors multiple biomarkers of organ function continuously and in real-time. It mainly monitors kidneys, but other organs (including the liver and pancreas) can also be monitored for transplantation.

RenoSure offers an unparalleled ability for close monitoring of the kidney function of kidney transplant patients both pre- and post-operatively, guaranteeing that all patients receive a kidney in the best possible condition and ensuring they recover without complications.

Accunea’s cutting edge technology could be vital in saving lives and supporting the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the numbers of people suffering from serious kidney related complications rises and NHS resources becomes increasingly stretched.

Accunea’s technology has proven to be successful in animal trials and now they want to progress to clinical trials. Click here.

Footnotes

  1. Financial Times 2020 https://www.ft.com/content/e26524a5-c868-451c-a7d7-a91627a1722c (paywalled article)
  2. HSJ 2020 https://www.hsj.co.uk/commissioning/exclusive-nhs-trusts-suspend-life-saving-organ-transplants/7027301.article
  3. Statista 2020 https://www.statista.com/statistics/519829/patient-deaths-on-organ-transplant-waiting-list-united-kingdom-uk/
  4. Clinical Kidney Journal, Volume 12, Issue 4, August 2019, Pages 564–568, https://doi.org/10.1093/ckj/sfz032
  5. Analysis of the UK Transplant Registry
  6. Department of Surgery, University of Cambridge and NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, Cambridge, UK.

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