Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is an emerging infectious disease caused by a new coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV. Specific proteomic patterns might be present in serum in response to the infection and could be useful for early detection of the disease.
Methods: Using surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization (SELDI) ProteinChip technology, we profiled and compared serum proteins of 39 patients with early-stage SARS infection and 39 non-SARS patients who were suspected cases during the SARS outbreak period. Proteomic patterns associated with SARS were identified by bioinformatic and biostatistical analyses. Features of interest were then purified and identified by tandem mass spectrometry.
Results: Twenty proteomic features were significantly different between the 2 groups. Fifteen were increased in the SARS group, and 5 were decreased. Their concentrations were correlated with 2 or more clinical and/or biochemical variables. Two were correlated with the SARS-CoV viral load. Hierarchical clustering analysis showed that a majority of the SARS patients (95%) had similar serum proteomic profiles and identified 2 subgroups with poor prognosis. ROC curve analysis identified individual features as potential biomarkers for SARS diagnosis (areas under ROC curves, 0.733-0.995). ROC curve areas were largest for an N-terminal fragment of complement C3c alpha chain (m/z 28 119) and an internal fragment of fibrinogen alpha-E chain (m/z 5908). Immunoglobulin kappa light chain (m/z 24 505) positively correlated with viral load.
Conclusions: Specific proteomic fingerprints in the sera of adult SARS patients could be used to identify SARS cases early during onset with high specificity and sensitivity.