Basophils and mast cells in COVID-19 pathogenesis

Giuseppe Murdaca, Mario Di Gioacchino, Monica Greco, Matteo Borro, Francesca Paladin, Claudia Petrarca, Sebastiano Gangemi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Basophils and mast cells are among the principal inducers of Th2 responses and have a crucial role in allergic and anti-parasitic protective immunity. Basophils can function as antigen-presenting cells that bind antigens on their surface and boost humoral immune responses, inducing Th2 cell differentiation. Their depletion results in lower humoral memory activation and greater infection susceptibility. Basophils seem to have an active role upon immune response to SARS-CoV-2. In fact, a coordinate adaptive immune response to SARS-CoV-2 is magnified by basophils. It has been observed that basophil amount is lower during acute disease with respect to the recovery phase and that the grade of this depletion is an important determinant of the antibody response to the virus. Moreover, mast cells, present in a great quantity in the nasal epithelial and lung cells, participate in the first immune response to SARS-CoV-2. Their activation results in a hyperinflam-matory syndrome through the release of inflammatory molecules, participating to the “cytokine storm” and, in a longer period, inducing pulmonary fibrosis. The literature data suggest that basophil counts may be a useful prognostic tool for COVID-19, since their reduction is associated with a worse prognosis. Mast cells, on the other hand, represent a possible therapeutic target for reducing the airway inflammation characteristic of the hyperacute phase of the disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2754
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Adaptive immune response
  • Basophils
  • COVID-19
  • Innate immune response
  • Mast cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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