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Systems biological assessment of immunity to mild versus severe COVID-19 infection in humans

Arunachalam, P.S., Wimmers, F., Mok, C. K. P.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) represents a global crisis, yet major knowledge gaps remain about human immunity to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). We analyzed immune responses in 76 COVID-19 patients and 69 healthy individuals from Hong Kong and Atlanta, Georgia, United States. In the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of COVID-19 patients, we observed reduced expression of human leukocyte antigen class DR (HLA-DR) and proinflammatory cytokines by myeloid cells as well as impaired mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling and interferon-α (IFN-α) production by plasmacytoid dendritic cells. By contrast, we detected enhanced plasma levels of inflammatory mediators—including EN-RAGE, TNFSF14, and oncostatin M—which correlated with disease severity and increased bacterial products in plasma. Single-cell transcriptomics revealed a lack of type I IFNs, reduced HLA-DR in the myeloid cells of patients with severe COVID-19, and transient expression of IFN-stimulated genes. This was consistent with bulk PBMC transcriptomics and transient, low IFN-α levels in plasma during infection. These results reveal mechanisms and potential therapeutic targets for COVID-19.

Citation

Arunachalam, P.S., Wimmers, F., Mok, C. K. P. "Systems biological assessment of immunity to mild versus severe COVID-19 infection in humans" Science (2020): DOI: 10.1126/science.abc6261