Introduction: After more than two years the Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to burden healthcare systems and economies worldwide, and it is evident that the effects on the immune system can persist for months post-infection. The activity of myeloid cells such as monocytes and dendritic cells (DC) is essential for correct mobilization of the innate and adaptive responses to a pathogen. Impaired levels and responses of monocytes and DC to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is likely to be a driving force behind the immune dysregulation that characterizes severe COVID-19.
Methods: Here, we followed a cohort of COVID-19 patients hospitalized during the early waves of the pandemic for 6-7 months. The levels and phenotypes of circulating monocyte and DC subsets were assessed to determine both the early and long-term effects of the SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Results: We found increased monocyte levels that persisted for 6-7 months, mostly attributed to elevated levels of classical monocytes. Myeloid derived suppressor cells were also elevated over this period. While most DC subsets recovered from an initial decrease, we found elevated levels of cDC2/cDC3 at the 6-7 month timepoint. Analysis of functional markers on monocytes and DC revealed sustained reduction in program death ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression but increased CD86 expression across almost all cell types examined. Finally, C-reactive protein (CRP) correlated positively to the levels of intermediate monocytes and negatively to the recovery of DC subsets.
Conclusion: By exploring the myeloid compartments, we show here that alterations in the immune landscape remain more than 6 months after severe COVID-19, which could be indicative of ongoing healing and/or persistence of viral antigens.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; dendritic cells; monocytes; myeloid compartment.
Copyright © 2023 Hopkins, Govender, Svanberg, Nordgren, Waller, Nilsdotter-Augustinsson, Henningsson, Hagbom, Sjöwall, Nyström and Larsson.