Despite available diagnostic tests and recent advances, diagnosis of pulmonary invasive aspergillosis (IPA) remains challenging. We performed a longitudinal case-control pilot study to identify host-specific, novel, and immune-relevant molecular candidates indicating IPA in patients post allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT). Supported by differential gene expression analysis of six relevant in vitro studies, we conducted RNA sequencing of three alloSCT patients categorized as probable IPA cases and their matched controls without Aspergillus infection (66 samples in total). We additionally performed immunoassay analysis for all patient samples to gain a multi-omics perspective. Profiling analysis suggested LGALS2, MMP1, IL-8, and caspase-3 as potential host molecular candidates indicating IPA in investigated alloSCT patients. MMP1, IL-8, and caspase-3 were evaluated further in alloSCT patients for their potential to differentiate possible IPA cases and patients suffering from COVID-19-associated pulmonary aspergillosis (CAPA) and appropriate control patients. Possible IPA cases showed differences in IL-8 and caspase-3 serum levels compared with matched controls. Furthermore, we observed significant differences in IL-8 and caspase-3 levels among CAPA patients compared with control patients. With our conceptual work, we demonstrate the potential value of considering the human immune response during Aspergillus infection to identify immune-relevant molecular candidates indicating IPA in alloSCT patients. These human host candidates together with already established fungal biomarkers might improve the accuracy of IPA diagnostic tools.
Keywords: alloSCT patients; caspase-3; galectin-2; host response; invasive pulmonary aspergillosis; matrix metallopeptidase-1.