A Counterintuitive Neutrophil-Mediated Pattern in COVID-19 Patients Revealed through Transcriptomics Analysis

Viruses. 2022 Dec 30;15(1):104. doi: 10.3390/v15010104.


The COVID-19 pandemic has persisted for almost three years. However, the mechanisms linked to the SARS-CoV-2 effect on tissues and disease severity have not been fully elucidated. Since the onset of the pandemic, a plethora of high-throughput data related to the host transcriptional response to SARS-CoV-2 infections has been generated. To this end, the aim of this study was to assess the effect of SARS-CoV-2 infections on circulating and organ tissue immune responses. We profited from the publicly accessible gene expression data of the blood and soft tissues by employing an integrated computational methodology, including bioinformatics, machine learning, and natural language processing in the relevant transcriptomics data. COVID-19 pathophysiology and severity have mainly been associated with macrophage-elicited responses and a characteristic "cytokine storm". Our counterintuitive findings suggested that the COVID-19 pathogenesis could also be mediated through neutrophil abundance and an exacerbated suppression of the immune system, leading eventually to uncontrolled viral dissemination and host cytotoxicity. The findings of this study elucidated new physiological functions of neutrophils, as well as tentative pathways to be explored in asymptomatic-, ethnicity- and locality-, or staging-associated studies.

Keywords: COVID-19 epidemiology; asymptomatic patients; cytokine blunt; gene signature; machine learning; natural language processing; transcriptomics; virus entry spike absence.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Neutrophils
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • Transcriptome

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.