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EuropePMC; 2022.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-332347


Thick, viscous respiratory secretions are a major pathogenic feature of COVID19 disease, but the composition and physical properties of these secretions are poorly understood. We characterized the composition and rheological properties (i.e. resistance to flow) of respiratory secretions collected from intubated COVID19 patients. We find the percent solids and protein content are greatly elevated in COVID19 compared to heathy control samples and closely resemble levels seen in cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease known for thick, tenacious respiratory secretions. DNA and hyaluronan (HA) are major components of respiratory secretions in COVID19 and are likewise abundant in cadaveric lung tissues from these patients. COVID19 secretions exhibit heterogeneous rheological behaviors with thicker samples showing increased sensitivity to DNase and hyaluronidase treatment. In histologic sections from these same patients, we observe increased accumulation of HA and the hyaladherin versican but reduced tumor necrosis factor stimulated gene 6 (TSG6) staining, consistent with the inflammatory nature of these secretions. Finally, we observed diminished type I interferon and enhanced inflammatory cytokines in these secretions. Overall, our studies indicate that increases in HA and DNA in COVID19 respiratory secretion samples correlate with enhanced inflammatory burden and suggest that DNA and HA may be viable therapeutic targets in COVID19 infection.