Objectives: The immunologic profile and opportunistic viral DNA increase were monitored in Italian patients with COVID-19 in order to identify markers of disease severity. Methods: A total of 104 patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 were evaluated in the study. Of them, 42/104 (40.4%) were hospitalized in an intensive care unit (ICU) and 62/104(59.6%) in a sub-intensive care unit (SICU). Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Parvovirus B19 and Human Herpesvirus 6 virus reactivations were determined by real-time PCR, and lymphocyte subpopulation counts were determined by flow cytometry. Results: Among opportunistic viruses, only EBV was consistently detected. EBV DNA was observed in 40/42 (95.2%) of the ICU patients and in 51/61 (83.6%) of the SICU patients. Comparing the two groups of patients, the EBV DNA median level among ICU patients was significantly higher than that observed in SICU patients. In parallel, a significant reduction of CD8 T cell and NK count in ICU patients as compared with SICU patients was observed (p < 0.05). In contrast, B cell count was significantly increased in ICU patients (p = 0.0172). Conclusions: A correlation between reduced CD8+ T cells and NK counts, EBV DNA levels and COVID-19 severity was observed. Other opportunistic viral infections were not observed. The relationship between EBV load and COVID-19 severity should be further evaluated in longitudinal studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-319
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Infectious Diseases
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Lymphocyte subpopulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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