Early Phases of COVID-19 Are Characterized by a Reduction in Lymphocyte Populations and the Presence of Atypical Monocytes

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Abstract

Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is a recently discovered pathogen responsible of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The immunological changes associated with this infection are largely unknown. Methods: We evaluated the peripheral blood mononuclear cells profile of 63 patients with COVID-19 at diagnosis. We also assessed the presence of association with inflammatory biomarkers and the 28-day mortality. Results: Lymphocytopenia was present in 51 of 63 (80.9%) patients, with a median value of 720 lymphocytes/µl (IQR 520-1,135). This reduction was mirrored also on CD8+ (128 cells/µl, IQR 55-215), natural killer (67 cells/µl, IQR 35–158) and natural killer T (31 cells/µl, IQR 11–78) cells. Monocytes were preserved in total number but displayed among them a subpopulation with a higher forward and side scatter properties, composed mainly of cells with a reduced expression of both CD14 and HLA-DR. Patients who died in the 28 days from admission (N=10, 15.9%), when compared to those who did not, displayed lower mean values of CD3+ (337.4 cells/µl vs 585.9 cells/µl; p=0.028) and CD4+ cells (232.2 cells/µl vs 381.1 cells/µl; p=0.042) and an higher percentage of CD8+/CD38+/HLA-DR+ lymphocytes (13.5% vs 7.6%; p=0.026). Discussion: The early phases of COVID-19 are characterized by lymphocytopenia, predominance of Th2-like lymphocytes and monocytes with altered immune profile, which include atypical mononuclear cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number560330
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 9 2020

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • immune profiling
  • inflammation
  • monocytes
  • peripheral blood mononuclear cells
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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