Plasma Markers of Neutrophil Extracellular Trap Are Linked to Survival but Not to Pulmonary Embolism in COVID-19-Related ARDS Patients

Front Immunol. 2022 Mar 17;13:851497. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.851497. eCollection 2022.


Introduction: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) can cause life-threatening acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Recent data suggest a role for neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in COVID-19-related lung damage partly due to microthrombus formation. Besides, pulmonary embolism (PE) is frequent in severe COVID-19 patients, suggesting that immunothrombosis could also be responsible for increased PE occurrence in these patients. Here, we evaluate whether plasma levels of NET markers measured shorty after admission of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are associated with clinical outcomes in terms of clinical worsening, survival, and PE occurrence.

Patients and methods: Ninety-six hospitalized COVID-19 patients were included, 50 with ARDS (severe disease) and 46 with moderate disease. We collected plasma early after admission and measured 3 NET markers: total DNA, myeloperoxidase (MPO)-DNA complexes, and citrullinated histone H3. Comparisons between survivors and non-survivors and patients developing PE and those not developing PE were assessed by Mann-Whitney test.

Results: Analysis in the whole population of hospitalized COVID-19 patients revealed increased circulating biomarkers of NETs in patients who will die from COVID-19 and in patients who will subsequently develop PE. Restriction of our analysis in the most severe patients, i.e., the ones who enter the hospital for COVID-19-related ARDS, confirmed the link between NET biomarker levels and survival but not PE occurrence.

Conclusion: Our results strongly reinforce the hypothesis that NETosis is an attractive therapeutic target to prevent COVID-19 progression but that it does not seem to be linked to PE occurrence in patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; acute respiratory distress syndrome; immunothrombosis; neutrophil extracellular trap; pulmonary embolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • COVID-19* / complications
  • Extracellular Traps*
  • Humans
  • Pulmonary Embolism* / etiology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome* / etiology


  • Biomarkers