Targeted metabolomics identifies high performing diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for COVID-19

Sci Rep. 2021 Jul 19;11(1):14732. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-94171-y.


Research exploring the development and outcome of COVID-19 infections has led to the need to find better diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. This cross-sectional study used targeted metabolomics to identify potential COVID-19 biomarkers that predicted the course of the illness by assessing 110 endogenous plasma metabolites from individuals admitted to a local hospital for diagnosis/treatment. Patients were classified into four groups (≈ 40 each) according to standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 testing and disease course: PCR-/controls (i.e., non-COVID controls), PCR+/not-hospitalized, PCR+/hospitalized, and PCR+/intubated. Blood samples were collected within 2 days of admission/PCR testing. Metabolite concentration data, demographic data and clinical data were used to propose biomarkers and develop optimal regression models for the diagnosis and prognosis of COVID-19. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC; 95% CI) was used to assess each models' predictive value. A panel that included the kynurenine: tryptophan ratio, lysoPC a C26:0, and pyruvic acid discriminated non-COVID controls from PCR+/not-hospitalized (AUC = 0.947; 95% CI 0.931-0.962). A second panel consisting of C10:2, butyric acid, and pyruvic acid distinguished PCR+/not-hospitalized from PCR+/hospitalized and PCR+/intubated (AUC = 0.975; 95% CI 0.968-0.983). Only lysoPC a C28:0 differentiated PCR+/hospitalized from PCR+/intubated patients (AUC = 0.770; 95% CI 0.736-0.803). If additional studies with targeted metabolomics confirm the diagnostic value of these plasma biomarkers, such panels could eventually be of clinical use in medical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolomics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • ROC Curve


  • Biomarkers