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Sci Rep ; 12(1): 18792, 2022 Nov 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2106466


The gut is of importance in the pathology of COVID-19 both as a route of infection, and gut dysfunction influencing the severity of disease. Systemic changes caused by SARS-CoV-2 gut infection include alterations in circulating levels of metabolites, nutrients and microbial products which alter immune and inflammatory responses. Circulating plasma markers for gut inflammation and damage such as zonulin, lipopolysaccharide and ß-glycan increase in plasma along with severity of disease. However, Intestinal Fatty Acid Binding Protein / Fatty Acid Binding Protein 2 (I-FABP/FABP2), a widely used biomarker for gut cell death, has paradoxically been shown to be reduced in moderate to severe COVID-19. We also found this pattern in a pilot cohort of mild (n = 18) and moderately severe (n = 19) COVID-19 patients in Milan from March to June 2020. These patients were part of the first phase of COVID-19 in Europe and were therefore all unvaccinated. After exclusion of outliers, patients with more severe vs milder disease showed reduced FABP2 levels (median [IQR]) (124 [368] vs. 274 [558] pg/mL, P < 0.01). A reduction in NMR measured plasma relative lipid-CH3 levels approached significance (median [IQR]) (0.081 [0.011] vs. 0.073 [0.024], P = 0.06). Changes in circulating lipid levels are another feature commonly observed in severe COVID-19 and a weak positive correlation was observed in the more severe group between reduced FABP2 and reduced relative lipid-CH3 and lipid-CH2 levels. FABP2 is a key regulator of enterocyte lipid import, a process which is inhibited by gut SARS-CoV-2 infection. We propose that the reduced circulating FABP2 in moderate to severe COVID-19 is a marker of infected enterocyte functional change rather than gut damage, which could also contribute to the development of hypolipidemia in patients with more severe disease.

COVID-19 , Humans , Enterocytes/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2 , Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins/metabolism , Biomarkers , Cell Death , Lipids