Neutrophil calprotectin identifies severe pulmonary disease in COVID-19

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2020 Jul 15:2020.05.06.20093070. doi: 10.1101/2020.05.06.20093070.


Severe cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are regularly complicated by respiratory failure. While it has been suggested that elevated levels of blood neutrophils associate with worsening oxygenation in COVID-19, it is unknown whether neutrophils are drivers of the thrombo-inflammatory storm or simple bystanders. To better understand the potential role of neutrophils in COVID-19, we measured levels of the neutrophil activation marker S100A8/A9 (calprotectin) in hospitalized patients and determined its relationship to severity of illness and respiratory status. Patients with COVID-19 (n=172) had markedly elevated levels of calprotectin in their blood. Calprotectin tracked with other acute phase reactants including C-reactive protein, ferritin, lactate dehydrogenase, and absolute neutrophil count, but was superior in identifying patients requiring mechanical ventilation. In longitudinal samples, calprotectin rose as oxygenation worsened. When tested on day 1 or 2 of hospitalization (n=94 patients), calprotectin levels were significantly higher in patients who progressed to severe COVID-19 requiring mechanical ventilation (8039 +/- 7031 ng/ml, n=32) as compared to those who remained free of intubation (3365 +/- 3146, p<0.0001). In summary, serum calprotectin levels track closely with current and future COVID-19 severity, implicating neutrophils as potential perpetuators of inflammation and respiratory compromise in COVID-19.

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  • Preprint