"COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein-related delayed inflammatory reaction to hyaluronic acid dermal fillers: a challenging clinical conundrum in diagnosis and treatment"

Arch Dermatol Res. 2022 Jan;314(1):1-15. doi: 10.1007/s00403-021-02190-6. Epub 2021 Feb 9.


We present the first reported cases of delayed inflammatory reactions (DIR) to hyaluronic acid (HA) dermal fillers after exposure to the COVID-19 spike protein. DIR to HA is reported to occur in the different scenarios including: secondary to poor injection technique, following dental cleaning procedures, following bacterial/viral illness, and after vaccination. In this report of 4 cases with distinct clinical histories and presentations: one case occured following a community acquired COVID-19 infection, one case occured in a study subject in the mRNA-1273 clinical phase III trial, one case occurred following the first dose of publically available mRNA-1273 vaccine (Moderna, Cambridge MA), and the last case occurred after the second dose of BNT162b2 vaccine (Pfizer, New York, NY). Injectable HA dermal fillers are prevalent in aesthetic medicine for facial rejuvenation. Structural modifications in the crosslinking of HA fillers have enhanced the products' resistance to enzymatic breakdown and thus increased injected product longevity, however, have also led to a rise in DIR. Previous, DIR to HA dermal fillers can present clinically as edema with symptomatic and inflammatory erythematous papules and nodules. The mechanism of action for the delayed reaction to HA fillers is unknown and is likely to be multifactorial in nature. A potential mechanism of DIR to HA fillers in COVID-19 related cases is binding and blockade of angiotensin 2 converting enzyme receptors (ACE2), which are targeted by the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein to gain entry into the cell. Spike protein interaction with dermal ACE2 receptors favors a pro-inflammatory, loco-regional TH1 cascade, promoting a CD8+T cell mediated reaction to incipient granulomas, which previously formed around residual HA particles. Management to suppress the inflammatory response in the native COVID-19 case required high-dose corticosteroids (CS) to suppress inflammatory pathways, with concurrent ACE2 upregulation, along with high-dose intralesional hyaluronidase to dissolve the inciting HA filler. With regards to the two vaccine related cases; in the mRNA-1273 case, a low dose angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE-I) was utilized for treatment, to reduce pro-inflammatory Angiotensin II. Whereas, in the BNT162b2 case the filler reaction was suppressed with oral corticosteroids. Regarding final disposition of the cases; the vaccine-related cases returned to baseline appearance within 3 days, whereas the native COVID-19 case continued to have migratory, evanescent, periorbital edema for weeks which ultimately subsided.

Keywords: ACE receptor; ACE receptor inhibitor; ACE2; COVID-19; Delayed inflammatory reaction; Hyaluronic acid fillers; mRNA vaccine.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 2019-nCoV Vaccine mRNA-1273 / administration & dosage
  • 2019-nCoV Vaccine mRNA-1273 / adverse effects*
  • 2019-nCoV Vaccine mRNA-1273 / immunology
  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • BNT162 Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • BNT162 Vaccine / adverse effects*
  • BNT162 Vaccine / immunology
  • COVID-19 / immunology
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / virology*
  • Dermal Fillers / adverse effects*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronic Acid / adverse effects*
  • Hyaluronic Acid / immunology
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / virology
  • Inflammation Mediators / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Inflammation Mediators / immunology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology
  • SARS-CoV-2 / pathogenicity*
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / immunology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vaccination / adverse effects


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Dermal Fillers
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • 2019-nCoV Vaccine mRNA-1273
  • BNT162 Vaccine