Identification of macrophage activation-related biomarkers in obese type 2 diabetes that may be indicative of enhanced respiratory risk in COVID-19

Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 19;11(1):6428. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-85760-y.


Hyperactivation of the immune system through obesity and diabetes may enhance infection severity complicated by Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). The objective was to determine the circulatory biomarkers for macrophage activation at baseline and after serum glucose normalization in obese type 2 diabetes (OT2D) subjects. A case-controlled interventional pilot study in OT2D (n = 23) and control subjects (n = 23). OT2D subjects underwent hyperinsulinemic clamp to normalize serum glucose. Plasma macrophage-related proteins were determined using Slow Off-rate Modified Aptamer-scan plasma protein measurement at baseline (control and OT2D subjects) and after 1-h of insulin clamp (OT2D subjects only). Basal M1 macrophage activation was characterized by elevated levels of M1 macrophage-specific surface proteins, CD80 and CD38, and cytokines or chemokines (CXCL1, CXCL5, RANTES) released by activated M1 macrophages. Two potent M1 macrophage activation markers, CXCL9 and CXCL10, were decreased in OT2D. Activated M2 macrophages were characterized by elevated levels of plasma CD163, TFGβ-1, MMP7 and MMP9 in OT2D. Conventional mediators of both M1 and M2 macrophage activation markers (IFN-γ, IL-4, IL-13) were not altered. No changes were observed in plasma levels of M1/M2 macrophage activation markers in OT2D in response to acute normalization of glycemia. In the basal state, macrophage activation markers are elevated, and these reflect the expression of circulatory cytokines, chemokines, growth factors and matrix metalloproteinases in obese individuals with type 2 diabetes, that were not changed by glucose normalisation. These differences could potentially predispose diabetic individuals to increased infection severity complicated by ARDS. Clinical trial reg. no: NCT03102801; registration date April 6, 2017.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • COVID-19 / blood
  • COVID-19 / etiology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Macrophage Activation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines

Associated data