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EuropePMC; 2020.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-323197


Epidemiological and clinical reports have indicated that the host immune response to SARS-CoV-2, more so than viral factors, determines COVID-19 disease severity. To elucidate the immunopathology underlying COVID-19 severity, cytokine and multiplex immune profiling was performed in mild-moderate and critically-ill COVID-19 patients. Hypercytokinemia in COVID-19 differed from the IFN-γ-driven cytokine storm in macrophage activation syndrome, and was more pronounced in critical versus mild-moderate COVID-19. Systems modelling of cytokine levels followed by deep-immune profiling showed that classical monocytes drive this hyper-inflammatory phenotype and that a reduction in T-lymphocytes correlates with disease severity, with CD8+ cells being disproportionately affected. Expression of antigen presenting machinery was reduced in critical disease, while also neutrophils contributed to disease severity and local tissue damage by amplifying hypercytokinemia and neutrophil extracellular trap formation. We suggest a myeloid-driven immunopathology, in which hyperactivated neutrophils and an ineffective adaptive immune system act as mediators of COVID-19 disease severity.