Temporal Kinetics of RNAemia and Associated Systemic Cytokines in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients

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Abstract

COVID-19 is associated with a wide range of extrarespiratory complications, of which the pathogenesis is currently not fully understood. However, both systemic spread and systemic inflammatory responses are thought to contribute to the systemic pathogenesis. In this study, we determined the temporal kinetics of viral RNA in serum (RNAemia) and the associated inflammatory cytokines and chemokines during the course of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients. We show that RNAemia can be detected in 90% of the patients who develop critical disease, compared to 50% of the patients who develop moderate or severe disease. Furthermore, RNAemia lasts longer in patients who develop critical disease. Elevated levels of interleukin-10 (IL-10) and MCP-1-but not IL-6-are associated with viral load in serum, whereas higher levels of IL-6 in serum were associated with the development of critical disease. In conclusion, RNAemia is common in hospitalized patients, with the highest frequency and duration in patients who develop critical disease. The fact that several cytokines or chemokines are directly associated with the presence of viral RNA in the circulation suggests that the development of RNAemia is an important factor in the systemic pathogenesis of COVID-19. IMPORTANCE Severe COVID-19 can be considered a systemic disease as many extrarespiratory complications occur. However, the systemic pathogenesis is poorly understood. Here, we show that the presence of viral RNA in the blood (RNAemia) occurs more frequently in patients who develop critical disease, compared to patients with moderate or severe disease. In addition, RNAemia is associated with increased levels of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, like MCP-1 and IL-10, in serum during the course of disease. This suggests that extrarespiratory spread of SARS-CoV-2 contributes to systemic inflammatory responses, which are an important factor in the systemic pathogenesis of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00311-21
JournalmSphere
Volume6
Issue number3
Early online date28 May 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021

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