Background: The rapid coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has hit hard on the world and causes panic since the virus causes serious infectious respiratory illness and easily leads to severe conditions such as immune system overactivation or cytokine storm. Due to the limited knowledge on the course of infection of this coronavirus and the lack of an effective treatment for this fatal disease, mortality remains high. The emergence of a cytokine storm in patients with a severe condition has been reported as the top reason of the death of patients with COVID-19 infection. However, the causative mechanism of cytokine storm remains elusive. Thus, we aim to observe the association of coagulopathy (D-dimer) with cytokine (i.e., IL-6) and CT imaging in COVID-19-infected patients. Methods: In this retrospective observational study, we systematically analyzed the comprehensive clinical laboratory data of COVID-19-positive patients in different illness groups of mild, moderate, and severe conditions according to the Chinese Clinical Guidance for COVID-19 Pneumonia Diagnosis and Treatment (7th edition). T tests and chi-square tests were used for two-group comparisons. One-way ANOVA was used for three-group comparisons. Pearson and Spearman correlation coefficients of the D-dimer level with IL-6 and CT imaging were computed at baseline. With regular liquid biopsy approach, D-dimer, IL-6, and neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio were recorded repeatedly with a time curve to investigate disease progression, along with CT imaging, and other indicators. Results: All the 64 patients were clinically evaluated and classified into three groups of mild (32 cases), moderate (23 cases), and severe (nine cases) conditions. The D-dimer level positively correlated with IL-6 (R = 0.5) at baseline when the COVID-19-infected patients were admitted. In addition, we observed that D-dimer rises earlier than the cytokine storm represented by IL-6 surge, which suggests that coagulopathy might act as a trigger to potentiate a cytokine storm. Conclusion: Integrated analysis revealed a positive correlation of coagulopathy with cytokine storm in COVID-19-infected patients; the D-dimer rises early, which indicates that coagulopathy acts as a prodrome of cytokine storm. Coagulopathy can be used to monitor early cytokine storm in COVID-19-infected patients.
Keywords: COVID-19; IL-6; coagulopathy; cytokine storm; d-dimer; prodrome.
Copyright © 2020 Guo, Sheng, Li, Li, Xie, Li, Zhu, Geng, Liu, Wang, Li and Wang.