Immuno-fibrotic drivers of impaired lung function in post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC).

Journal Article

INTRODUCTION: Subjects recovering from COVID-19 frequently experience persistent respiratory ailments; however, little is known about the underlying biological factors that may direct lung recovery and the extent to which these are affected by COVID-19 severity. METHODS: We performed a prospective cohort study of subjects with persistent symptoms after acute COVID-19, collecting clinical data, pulmonary function tests, and plasma samples used for multiplex profiling of inflammatory, metabolic, angiogenic, and fibrotic factors. RESULTS: Sixty-one subjects were enrolled across two academic medical centers at a median of 9 weeks (interquartile range 6-10) after COVID-19 illness: n=13 subjects (21%) mild/non-hospitalized, n=30 (49%) hospitalized/non-critical, and n=18 subjects (30%) hospitalized/intensive care ("ICU"). Fifty-three subjects (85%) had lingering symptoms, most commonly dyspnea (69%) and cough (58%). Forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), and diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) declined as COVID-19 severity increased (P<0.05), but did not correlate with respiratory symptoms. Partial least-squares discriminant analysis of plasma biomarker profiles clustered subjects by past COVID-19 severity. Lipocalin 2 (LCN2), matrix metalloproteinase-7 (MMP-7), and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) identified by the model were significantly higher in the ICU group (P<0.05) and inversely correlated with FVC and DLCO (P<0.05), and were confirmed in a separate validation cohort (n=53). CONCLUSIONS: Subjective respiratory symptoms are common after acute COVID-19 illness but do not correlate with COVID-19 severity or pulmonary function. Host response profiles reflecting neutrophil activation (LCN2), fibrosis signaling (MMP-7), and alveolar repair (HGF) track with lung impairment and may be novel therapeutic or prognostic targets. FUNDING: The study was funded in part by the NHLBI (K08HL130557 to BDK and R01HL142818 to HJC), the DeLuca Foundation Award (AP), a donation from Jack Levin to the Benign Hematology Program at Yale, and Divisional/Departmental funds from Duke University.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Chun, HJ; Coutavas, E; Pine, A; Lee, AI; Yu, V; Shallow, M; Giovacchini, CX; Mathews, A; Stephenson, B; Que, LG; Lee, PJ; Kraft, BD

Published Date

  • April 21, 2021

Published In

  • Medrxiv

PubMed ID

  • 33564789

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7872384

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1101/2021.01.31.21250870


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States