WV physicians using data to combat COVID-19

WVU School of Medicine News 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI) has been working with its investigators across the state to develop new and innovative ways to combat this global public health crisis. Early on, WVCTSI acknowledged the importance of clinical data to answering fundamental questions about this new virus.

As a response, WVCTSI joined forces with the West Virginia University School of Medicine to create a funding mechanism designed to leverage data to improve COVID-19 patient outcomes and incidence. This funding mechanism gave selected fellows from the WVU Department of Medicine $2,000 to support projects.

Four projects were selected among three clinical fellows.

The first selected project, led by Yousaf Hadi, MD, entitled, “Prognostic Significance of Transaminase Levels in Prediction of Cytokine Storm and Mortality in COVID19,” aims to investigate the link between a liver enzyme associated with Hepatitis and an increased risk for mortality in patients with COVID-19. The end goal of the project is to determine certain conditions that can be incorporated into a disease severity score which will allow healthcare providers to triage patients more effectively into the level of care they need.

Jessica Johnson, MD, and team members Joy Juskowich, MD, and Ghassan Azeez, MD, were awarded for their project titled, “Nationwide Analysis of the Characteristics and Clinical Outcomes of Patients Admitted with COVID-19 in the United States.” This retrospective study evaluates a large number of patients from across the country to examine the association between clinical course and demographic variables including gender, race, age, and body mass index (BMI). The primary goal is to determine if differences in patient demographics correlate with the clinical course and patient outcomes.

Mina Mehanni, MD, was selected for two projects examining patient outcomes related to COVID-19.

Dr. Mehanni’s first project is titled, “Characteristics and In-hospital Outcomes in Cancer and Cardio-Oncology Patients Presenting with COVID-19 Infection.” In this project, Dr. Mehanni and team members Pratik Agrawal, MD, Muhamad Bilal Munir, MD, Christopher Bianco, DO, and Partho Sengupta, MD, looked at data from patients with cancer, heart disease, and both, in order to determine which patients are most at risk. The group has hypothesized that individuals with both conditions are more likely to have poor outcomes.

“Comparison of Hospital Mortality and Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients Presenting with COVID-19 versus Influenza Infection,” is Dr. Mehanni’s second funded project. Dr. Mehanni and team members Pratik Agrawal, MD, Bilal Munir, MD, Sudarshan Balla, MD, and Partho Sengupta, MD, are looking to compare cardiac complications of viral infections in order to determine which patients are more likely to experience adverse cardiac events. The research team is examining data from patients with COVID-19 and influenza.

Fellows awarded through this funding mechanism also received data services through WVCTSI’s Clinical Research Design, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics Core to support their projects.

“We knew early on that we would need to chart new waters with COVID-19 and that It would be incredibly important to leverage data as a weapon in our fight,” said Sally Hodder, MD, infectious disease physician, director of WVCTSI and associate vice president for clinical and translational science at WVU. “By analyzing data through innovative projects like those we have funded, we can understand this new virus and give ourselves a fighting chance to beat it.”

WVCTSI Background

WVCTSI is funded by an IDeA Clinical and Translational grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (U54GM104942) to support the mission of building clinical and translational research infrastructure and capacity to impact health disparities in West Virginia.