Past studies dwelled on biomarkers and the mortality risks they carry. One biomarker in question is the glycoprotein acetylation (GlycA) protein found in blood. Despite the worrying discovery, the scientific community didn't know much about the GlycA biomarker and its link to premature death.

University of Melbourne's Dr. Michael Inouye and his colleagues wanted to know more about the GlycA biomarker. After analyzing data of more than 10,000 adults from Finland, Inouye and his team found that people with higher levels of GlycA have a higher risk of dying from pneumonia and sepsis. The higher the GlycA levels in the blood, the higher the risk of dying from disease infection.

"There were some strong associations. People who had one unit increase in GlycA levels were at 2.2 fold increased risk of sepsis, which makes up the majority of systemic infections," said Inouye. Moreover, their findings showed that elevated GlycA levels remain elevated for up to 10 years. The biomarker is able to predict infection-related death for up to 14 years in the future.

The research team found that when GlycA levels are elevated, 30 cytokines (immune-signalling molecules) are also elevated. Increased in levels of cytokines are markers of an immune system on overdrive, which is connected to the disease.

Data analyzed found that patients who suffered from a recent critical infection had high levels of GlycA and neutrophils, another type inflammatory-involved cell linked to microbial infection.

The researchers concluded that GlycA's link to premature death can be explained through its role as an indicator of chronic inflammation that can be set off by a bacterial infection. Chronic inflammation makes it harder for the patient to fight a severe infection, thus leading to higher chances of death from sepsis.

Co-senior author Johannes Kettunen from Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare and University of Oulu expressed that more research is needed to ratify GlycA's prophetic capability and to look for possible ways to lower the mortality risks it carries. Inouye added that GlycA wouldn't be an effective biomarker unless something can be done about it. For instance, doctors cannot offer a blood test for GlycA to patients unless there is a way to lower or intervene the death risk that comes with it.

The research was published in the Cell Systems journal on Oct. 22.

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