Clinical Progression and Cytokine Profiles of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Infection

J Korean Med Sci. 2016 Nov;31(11):1717-1725. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2016.31.11.1717.


Clinical progression over time and cytokine profiles have not been well defined in patients with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection. We included 17 patients with laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV during the 2015 outbreak in Korea. Clinical and laboratory parameters were collected prospectively. Serum cytokine and chemokine levels in serial serum samples were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. All patients presented with fever. The median time to defervescence was 18 days. Nine patients required oxygen supplementation and classified into severe group. In the severe group, chest infiltrates suddenly began to worsen around day 7 of illness, and dyspnea developed at the end of the first week and became apparent in the second week. Median time from symptom onset to oxygen supplementation was 8 days. The severe group had higher neutrophil counts during week 1 than the mild group (4,500 vs. 2,200/μL, P = 0.026). In the second week of illness, the severe group had higher serum levels of IL-6 (54 vs. 4 pg/mL, P = 0.006) and CXCL-10 (2,642 vs. 382 pg/mL, P < 0.001). IFN-α response was not observed in mild cases. Our data shows that clinical condition may suddenly deteriorate around 7 days of illness and the serum levels of IL-6 and CXCL-10 was significantly elevated in MERS-CoV patients who developed severe diseases.

Keywords: CXCL-10; Chemokine; Clinical Progression; Coronavirus; Cytokine; IFN-α; IL-6; MERS; Severity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Temperature
  • Chemokine CXCL10 / blood
  • Chemokines / blood
  • Coronavirus Infections / blood
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology*
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Disease Progression
  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperbaric Oxygenation
  • Interferon-gamma / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutrophils / cytology
  • Prothrombin Time
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • CXCL10 protein, human
  • Chemokine CXCL10
  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Creatinine