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      Endothelial dysfunction and immunothrombosis as key pathogenic mechanisms in COVID-19

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          Abstract

          Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a clinical syndrome caused by infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Patients with severe disease show hyperactivation of the immune system, which can affect multiple organs besides the lungs. Here, we propose that SARS-CoV-2 infection induces a process known as immunothrombosis, in which activated neutrophils and monocytes interact with platelets and the coagulation cascade, leading to intravascular clot formation in small and larger vessels. Microthrombotic complications may contribute to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and other organ dysfunctions. Therapeutic strategies aimed at reducing immunothrombosis may therefore be useful. Several antithrombotic and immunomodulating drugs have been proposed as candidates to treat patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection. The growing understanding of SARS-CoV-2 infection pathogenesis and how it contributes to critical illness and its complications may help to improve risk stratification and develop targeted therapies to reduce the acute and long-term consequences of this disease.

          Abstract

          Here, the authors propose that SARS-CoV-2 induces a prothrombotic state, with dysregulated immunothrombosis in lung microvessels and endothelial injury, which drive the clinical manifestations of severe COVID-19. They discuss potential antithrombotic and immunomodulating drugs that are being considered in the treatment of patients with COVID-19.

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          Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China

          Summary Background A recent cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, was caused by a novel betacoronavirus, the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). We report the epidemiological, clinical, laboratory, and radiological characteristics and treatment and clinical outcomes of these patients. Methods All patients with suspected 2019-nCoV were admitted to a designated hospital in Wuhan. We prospectively collected and analysed data on patients with laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV infection by real-time RT-PCR and next-generation sequencing. Data were obtained with standardised data collection forms shared by WHO and the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium from electronic medical records. Researchers also directly communicated with patients or their families to ascertain epidemiological and symptom data. Outcomes were also compared between patients who had been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and those who had not. Findings By Jan 2, 2020, 41 admitted hospital patients had been identified as having laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV infection. Most of the infected patients were men (30 [73%] of 41); less than half had underlying diseases (13 [32%]), including diabetes (eight [20%]), hypertension (six [15%]), and cardiovascular disease (six [15%]). Median age was 49·0 years (IQR 41·0–58·0). 27 (66%) of 41 patients had been exposed to Huanan seafood market. One family cluster was found. Common symptoms at onset of illness were fever (40 [98%] of 41 patients), cough (31 [76%]), and myalgia or fatigue (18 [44%]); less common symptoms were sputum production (11 [28%] of 39), headache (three [8%] of 38), haemoptysis (two [5%] of 39), and diarrhoea (one [3%] of 38). Dyspnoea developed in 22 (55%) of 40 patients (median time from illness onset to dyspnoea 8·0 days [IQR 5·0–13·0]). 26 (63%) of 41 patients had lymphopenia. All 41 patients had pneumonia with abnormal findings on chest CT. Complications included acute respiratory distress syndrome (12 [29%]), RNAaemia (six [15%]), acute cardiac injury (five [12%]) and secondary infection (four [10%]). 13 (32%) patients were admitted to an ICU and six (15%) died. Compared with non-ICU patients, ICU patients had higher plasma levels of IL2, IL7, IL10, GSCF, IP10, MCP1, MIP1A, and TNFα. Interpretation The 2019-nCoV infection caused clusters of severe respiratory illness similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus and was associated with ICU admission and high mortality. Major gaps in our knowledge of the origin, epidemiology, duration of human transmission, and clinical spectrum of disease need fulfilment by future studies. Funding Ministry of Science and Technology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China, and Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission.
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            COVID-19: consider cytokine storm syndromes and immunosuppression

            As of March 12, 2020, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been confirmed in 125 048 people worldwide, carrying a mortality of approximately 3·7%, 1 compared with a mortality rate of less than 1% from influenza. There is an urgent need for effective treatment. Current focus has been on the development of novel therapeutics, including antivirals and vaccines. Accumulating evidence suggests that a subgroup of patients with severe COVID-19 might have a cytokine storm syndrome. We recommend identification and treatment of hyperinflammation using existing, approved therapies with proven safety profiles to address the immediate need to reduce the rising mortality. Current management of COVID-19 is supportive, and respiratory failure from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is the leading cause of mortality. 2 Secondary haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (sHLH) is an under-recognised, hyperinflammatory syndrome characterised by a fulminant and fatal hypercytokinaemia with multiorgan failure. In adults, sHLH is most commonly triggered by viral infections 3 and occurs in 3·7–4·3% of sepsis cases. 4 Cardinal features of sHLH include unremitting fever, cytopenias, and hyperferritinaemia; pulmonary involvement (including ARDS) occurs in approximately 50% of patients. 5 A cytokine profile resembling sHLH is associated with COVID-19 disease severity, characterised by increased interleukin (IL)-2, IL-7, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor, interferon-γ inducible protein 10, monocyte chemoattractant protein 1, macrophage inflammatory protein 1-α, and tumour necrosis factor-α. 6 Predictors of fatality from a recent retrospective, multicentre study of 150 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wuhan, China, included elevated ferritin (mean 1297·6 ng/ml in non-survivors vs 614·0 ng/ml in survivors; p 39·4°C 49 Organomegaly None 0 Hepatomegaly or splenomegaly 23 Hepatomegaly and splenomegaly 38 Number of cytopenias * One lineage 0 Two lineages 24 Three lineages 34 Triglycerides (mmol/L) 4·0 mmol/L 64 Fibrinogen (g/L) >2·5 g/L 0 ≤2·5 g/L 30 Ferritin ng/ml 6000 ng/ml 50 Serum aspartate aminotransferase <30 IU/L 0 ≥30 IU/L 19 Haemophagocytosis on bone marrow aspirate No 0 Yes 35 Known immunosuppression † No 0 Yes 18 The Hscore 11 generates a probability for the presence of secondary HLH. HScores greater than 169 are 93% sensitive and 86% specific for HLH. Note that bone marrow haemophagocytosis is not mandatory for a diagnosis of HLH. HScores can be calculated using an online HScore calculator. 11 HLH=haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. * Defined as either haemoglobin concentration of 9·2 g/dL or less (≤5·71 mmol/L), a white blood cell count of 5000 white blood cells per mm3 or less, or platelet count of 110 000 platelets per mm3 or less, or all of these criteria combined. † HIV positive or receiving longterm immunosuppressive therapy (ie, glucocorticoids, cyclosporine, azathioprine).
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              Pathological findings of COVID-19 associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome

              Since late December, 2019, an outbreak of a novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19; previously known as 2019-nCoV)1, 2 was reported in Wuhan, China, 2 which has subsequently affected 26 countries worldwide. In general, COVID-19 is an acute resolved disease but it can also be deadly, with a 2% case fatality rate. Severe disease onset might result in death due to massive alveolar damage and progressive respiratory failure.2, 3 As of Feb 15, about 66 580 cases have been confirmed and over 1524 deaths. However, no pathology has been reported due to barely accessible autopsy or biopsy.2, 3 Here, we investigated the pathological characteristics of a patient who died from severe infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by postmortem biopsies. This study is in accordance with regulations issued by the National Health Commission of China and the Helsinki Declaration. Our findings will facilitate understanding of the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and improve clinical strategies against the disease. A 50-year-old man was admitted to a fever clinic on Jan 21, 2020, with symptoms of fever, chills, cough, fatigue and shortness of breath. He reported a travel history to Wuhan Jan 8–12, and that he had initial symptoms of mild chills and dry cough on Jan 14 (day 1 of illness) but did not see a doctor and kept working until Jan 21 (figure 1 ). Chest x-ray showed multiple patchy shadows in both lungs (appendix p 2), and a throat swab sample was taken. On Jan 22 (day 9 of illness), the Beijing Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed by reverse real-time PCR assay that the patient had COVID-19. Figure 1 Timeline of disease course according to days from initial presentation of illness and days from hospital admission, from Jan 8–27, 2020 SARS-CoV-2=severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. He was immediately admitted to the isolation ward and received supplemental oxygen through a face mask. He was given interferon alfa-2b (5 million units twice daily, atomisation inhalation) and lopinavir plus ritonavir (500 mg twice daily, orally) as antiviral therapy, and moxifloxacin (0·4 g once daily, intravenously) to prevent secondary infection. Given the serious shortness of breath and hypoxaemia, methylprednisolone (80 mg twice daily, intravenously) was administered to attenuate lung inflammation. Laboratory tests results are listed in the appendix (p 4). After receiving medication, his body temperature reduced from 39·0 to 36·4 °C. However, his cough, dyspnoea, and fatigue did not improve. On day 12 of illness, after initial presentation, chest x-ray showed progressive infiltrate and diffuse gridding shadow in both lungs. He refused ventilator support in the intensive care unit repeatedly because he suffered from claustrophobia; therefore, he received high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) oxygen therapy (60% concentration, flow rate 40 L/min). On day 13 of illness, the patient's symptoms had still not improved, but oxygen saturation remained above 95%. In the afternoon of day 14 of illness, his hypoxaemia and shortness of breath worsened. Despite receiving HFNC oxygen therapy (100% concentration, flow rate 40 L/min), oxygen saturation values decreased to 60%, and the patient had sudden cardiac arrest. He was immediately given invasive ventilation, chest compression, and adrenaline injection. Unfortunately, the rescue was not successful, and he died at 18:31 (Beijing time). Biopsy samples were taken from lung, liver, and heart tissue of the patient. Histological examination showed bilateral diffuse alveolar damage with cellular fibromyxoid exudates (figure 2A, B ). The right lung showed evident desquamation of pneumocytes and hyaline membrane formation, indicating acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS; figure 2A). The left lung tissue displayed pulmonary oedema with hyaline membrane formation, suggestive of early-phase ARDS (figure 2B). Interstitial mononuclear inflammatory infiltrates, dominated by lymphocytes, were seen in both lungs. Multinucleated syncytial cells with atypical enlarged pneumocytes characterised by large nuclei, amphophilic granular cytoplasm, and prominent nucleoli were identified in the intra-alveolar spaces, showing viral cytopathic-like changes. No obvious intranuclear or intracytoplasmic viral inclusions were identified. Figure 2 Pathological manifestations of right (A) and left (B) lung tissue, liver tissue (C), and heart tissue (D) in a patient with severe pneumonia caused by SARS-CoV-2 SARS-CoV-2=severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. The pathological features of COVID-19 greatly resemble those seen in SARS and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus infection.4, 5 In addition, the liver biopsy specimens of the patient with COVID-19 showed moderate microvesicular steatosis and mild lobular and portal activity (figure 2C), indicating the injury could have been caused by either SARS-CoV-2 infection or drug-induced liver injury. There were a few interstitial mononuclear inflammatory infiltrates, but no other substantial damage in the heart tissue (figure 2D). Peripheral blood was prepared for flow cytometric analysis. We found that the counts of peripheral CD4 and CD8 T cells were substantially reduced, while their status was hyperactivated, as evidenced by the high proportions of HLA-DR (CD4 3·47%) and CD38 (CD8 39·4%) double-positive fractions (appendix p 3). Moreover, there was an increased concentration of highly proinflammatory CCR6+ Th17 in CD4 T cells (appendix p 3). Additionally, CD8 T cells were found to harbour high concentrations of cytotoxic granules, in which 31·6% cells were perforin positive, 64·2% cells were granulysin positive, and 30·5% cells were granulysin and perforin double-positive (appendix p 3). Our results imply that overactivation of T cells, manifested by increase of Th17 and high cytotoxicity of CD8 T cells, accounts for, in part, the severe immune injury in this patient. X-ray images showed rapid progression of pneumonia and some differences between the left and right lung. In addition, the liver tissue showed moderate microvesicular steatosis and mild lobular activity, but there was no conclusive evidence to support SARS-CoV-2 infection or drug-induced liver injury as the cause. There were no obvious histological changes seen in heart tissue, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 infection might not directly impair the heart. Although corticosteroid treatment is not routinely recommended to be used for SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia, 1 according to our pathological findings of pulmonary oedema and hyaline membrane formation, timely and appropriate use of corticosteroids together with ventilator support should be considered for the severe patients to prevent ARDS development. Lymphopenia is a common feature in the patients with COVID-19 and might be a critical factor associated with disease severity and mortality. 3 Our clinical and pathological findings in this severe case of COVID-19 can not only help to identify a cause of death, but also provide new insights into the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2-related pneumonia, which might help physicians to formulate a timely therapeutic strategy for similar severe patients and reduce mortality. This online publication has been corrected. The corrected version first appeared at thelancet.com/respiratory on February 25, 2020
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                aldo.bonaventura@asst-settelaghi.it
                Journal
                Nat Rev Immunol
                Nat Rev Immunol
                Nature Reviews. Immunology
                Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
                1474-1733
                1474-1741
                6 April 2021
                : 1-11
                Affiliations
                [1 ]GRID grid.224260.0, ISNI 0000 0004 0458 8737, Pauley Heart Center, Division of Cardiology, Department of Internal Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, ; Richmond, VA USA
                [2 ]GRID grid.5606.5, ISNI 0000 0001 2151 3065, First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, , University of Genoa, ; Genoa, Italy
                [3 ]Department of Internal Medicine, ASST dei Sette Laghi, Varese, Italy
                [4 ]GRID grid.18887.3e, ISNI 0000000417581884, Unit of Immunology, Rheumatology, Allergy and Rare Diseases, IRCCS San Raffaele Scientific Institute, ; Milan, Italy
                [5 ]GRID grid.15496.3f, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, ; Milan, Italy
                [6 ]GRID grid.5596.f, ISNI 0000 0001 0668 7884, Center for Molecular and Vascular Biology, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, KU Leuven, ; Leuven, Belgium
                [7 ]GRID grid.224260.0, ISNI 0000 0004 0458 8737, Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcome Science, School of Pharmacy, , Virginia Commonwealth University, ; Richmond, VA USA
                [8 ]GRID grid.18147.3b, ISNI 0000000121724807, Department of Medicine and Surgery, , Insubria University, ; Varese, Italy
                [9 ]IRCCS Ospedale Policlinico San Martino Genova — Italian Cardiovascular Network, Genoa, Italy
                [10 ]GRID grid.5606.5, ISNI 0000 0001 2151 3065, First Clinic of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine and Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Research (CEBR), , University of Genoa, ; Genoa, Italy
                [11 ]Deutsches Zentrum für Herz-Kreislauf-Forschung (DZHK) e.V., Partner Site Munich Heart Alliance, Munich, Germany
                [12 ]Medizinische Klinik und Poliklinik I, Klinikum der Universität, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany
                [13 ]GRID grid.52996.31, ISNI 0000 0000 8937 2257, Department of Medicine and Cardio-metabolic Programme — NIHR UCLH/UCL BRC, , University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, ; London, UK
                Author information
                http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4747-5535
                http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1026-6107
                http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0823-8729
                http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7387-3986
                Article
                536
                10.1038/s41577-021-00536-9
                8023349
                33824483
                8f8e4ad7-e620-4436-bf37-3ca7f041d900
                © Springer Nature Limited 2021

                This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted research re-use and secondary analysis in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

                History
                : 9 March 2021
                Categories
                Perspective

                coagulation system,antimicrobial responses,cytokines,innate immunity,viral infection

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