Can early intervention slow the progression of COVID-19?

Key takeaways

  • Analysis suggests a possible intervention point to slow the growth of COVID-19.
  • The body’s natural and productive inflammatory response goes from being helpful to hurtful in moderate to severe cases.
  • Early detection opens the door to various treatments that could prevent immune dysfunction and limit organ damage.


By now, we all know COVID-19 is a complex and somewhat unpredictable virus. Some people have mild symptoms and are able to move on with their lives, while others end up in the ICU. The COVID-19 Immune Response Study [1] suggests early intervention could help balance out the effective immune response versus the injurious inflammation caused by the virus and the nutrients required to build a strong response to fight off the virus.

It is in the beginning stages of COVID-19 that is most optimal to treat the disease before the inflammatory response goes from helpful to hurtful.  

Throughout 2020, Providence research has been front and center in the response to COVID-19.  While more people are getting infected, people are being saved at an even higher percentage. New treatments, oxygen, and efforts to continuously improve supportive care have cut the mortality rate of hospitalized patients in half.

A key factor for Providence in the science of the disease is understanding why some patients progress to serious infection and some don’t. 

As the severity of illness from the disease is determined by our immune system response, it’s important to understand the patients’ progression from mild to moderate to severe disease. This week researchers had a breakthrough discovery in understanding the inflammatory response at a single-cell level.

Led by Providence clinicians and scientists from Swedish Medical Center and the Institute of Systems Biology, researchers examined blood drawn from 139 newly diagnosed patients with varying severities of illness from the virus. By measuring proteins, metabolites, and individual immune cells, we were able to get a picture of how the immune system responds to SARS-CoV-2 and to identify potential opportunities to influence the treatment of the virus and the inflammatory response.

Dr. Walter Urba [2], SVP of Providence Research states, “What is exciting about this work is the synergy of an outstanding group of researchers, aligned with amazing laboratory facilities, and an integrated health system. Samples were able to go from patients to scientists, and then the data goes back to the clinicians to identify opportunities to transform care.”

For a scientific deep dive into the study click here; To view the press release version click here

The image below offers a view of the integrated analysis used in the COVID-19 Immune Response study.

According to Dr. Jason Goldman [3] of Swedish, the clinical lead for the study, “These findings have practical implications for treatment of patients with COVID-19. Since patients with moderate illness have not yet developed end-organ damage, our data suggest that early in the disease course would be the best time to intervene with various treatment options to prevent the immune, protein, and metabolite derangements seen with more severe disease.”

In layman’s terms, these findings suggest that intervention with various antiviral or nutritional supplements early in the stages of COVID-19 could limit the dysfunction in the immune systems’ response to combating the virus.

"The resources provided from this work could provide high value in developing new therapies that might target metabolite starvation, immune dysfunction, or blood clotting, each of which we see emerge at the level of moderate disease," said Dr. Yapeng S [4], an ISB research scientist and lead author on the study.

Equipped with the ability to target specific points of intervention to slow the progression of COVID-19, clinicians may now be able to forestall the virus before it can have severe and lasting impacts on the body.

[2] Dr. Walter Urba’s published research can be found here.

[3] Dr. Jason Goldman specializes in infectious diseases and patients with weakened immune systems. His published research can be found at the National Library of Medicine.

[4] Dr. Yapeng Su is an experienced researcher in computational and systems biology analysis. His published works can be found here.

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