Despite extensive analyses, there remains an urgent need to delineate immune cell states that contribute to mortality in people critically ill with COVID-19. Here, we present high-dimensional profiling of blood and respiratory samples from people with severe COVID-19 to examine the association between cell-linked molecular features and mortality outcomes. Peripheral transcriptional profiles by single-cell RNA sequencing (RNA-seq)-based deconvolution of immune states are associated with COVID-19 mortality. Further, persistently high levels of an interferon signaling module in monocytes over time lead to subsequent concerted upregulation of inflammatory cytokines. SARS-CoV-2-infected myeloid cells in the lower respiratory tract upregulate CXCL10, leading to a higher risk of death. Our analysis suggests a pivotal role for viral-infected myeloid cells and protracted interferon signaling in severe COVID-19.
Keywords: COVID-19; COVID-19 outcome; gene modules; inflammatory cytokines; inflammatory monocytes; machine learning; severe COVID-19; single-cell RNA-seq; type I interferon.
© 2021 The Author(s).