A low level of CD16 pos monocytes in SARS-CoV-2 infected patients is a marker of severity

Clin Chem Lab Med. 2021 Feb 22;59(7):1315-1322. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2020-1801. Print 2021 Jun 25.


Objectives: Severe forms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are characterized by an excessive production of inflammatory cytokines. Activated monocytes secrete high levels of cytokines. Human monocytes are divided into three major populations: conventional (CD14posCD16neg), non-classical (CD14dimCD16pos), and intermediate (CD14posCD16pos) monocytes. The aim of this study was to analyze whether the distribution of conventional (CD16neg) and CD16pos monocytes is different in patients with COVID-19 and whether the variations could be predictive of the outcome of the disease.

Methods: We performed a prospective study on 390 consecutive patients referred to the Emergency Unit, with a proven diagnosis of SARS-CoV 2 infection by RT-PCR. Using the CytoDiff™ reagent, an automated routine leukocyte differential, we quantified CD16neg and CD16pos monocytes.

Results: In the entire population, median CD16neg and CD16pos monocyte levels (0.398 and 0.054×109/L, respectively) were in the normal range [(0.3-0.7×109/L) and (0.015-0.065×109/L), respectively], but the 35 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) had a significantly (p<0.001) lower CD16pos monocyte count (0.018 × 109/L) in comparison to the 70 patients who were discharged (0.064 × 109/L) or were hospitalized in conventional units (0.058 × 109/L). By ROC curve analysis, the ratio [absolute neutrophil count/CD16pos monocyte count] was highly discriminant to identify patients requiring ICU hospitalization: with a cut-off 193.1, the sensitivity and the specificity were 74.3 and 81.8%, respectively (area under the curve=0.817).

Conclusions: Quantification of CD16pos monocytes and the ratio [absolute neutrophil count/CD16pos monocyte count] could constitute a marker of the severity of disease in COVID-19 patients.

Keywords: CD16posmonocytes; COVID-19; intensive care unit.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • COVID-19 / blood
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Leukocyte Count / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / classification
  • Monocytes / cytology*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • ROC Curve
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers