Researchers have discovered that an increase in viral load in the lungs is a major contributor and may lead to death in COVID-19 patients. These findings directly challenge the previous theories which stated that simultaneous infections such as pneumonia or an overreaction of the body's immune system are significant factors in deaths.
They found this after analyzing bacterial and fungal samples from the lungs of 589 hospitalized patients who were seriously ill and required mechanical ventilation. So in an average ratio patients who died had 10 times the amount of virus in their lower airways than those who survived their illness.
Dr. Imran Sulaiman, an adjunct professor in NYU Langone Health's department of medicine said, "Our findings suggest that the body's failure to cope with the large numbers of virus infecting the lungs is largely responsible for COVID-19 deaths in the pandemic".
The researchers also concluded that there was no evidence of any secondary bacterial infection as the cause of the deaths but that may be because the patients had received large amounts of antibiotics and other medications.
According to the guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, giving antivirals such as Remdesivir to severely ill COVID-19 patients on mechanical ventilation are not enough, but these findings suggest these medications may actually benefit these patients and prevent them from coronavirus.