Integrated metabolic and inflammatory signatures associated with severity of, fatality of, and recovery from COVID-19

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Severe manifestations of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and mortality have been associated with physiological alterations that provide insights into the pathogenesis of the disease. Moreover, factors that drive recovery from COVID-19 can be explored to identify correlates of protection. The cellular metabolism represents a potential target to improve survival upon severe disease, but the associations between the metabolism and the inflammatory response during COVID-19 are not well defined. We analyzed blood laboratorial parameters, cytokines, and metabolomes of 150 individuals with mild to severe disease, of which 33 progressed to a fatal outcome. A subset of 20 individuals was followed up after hospital discharge and recovery from acute disease. We used hierarchical community networks to integrate metabolomics profiles with cytokines and markers of inflammation, coagulation, and tissue damage. Infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) promotes significant alterations in the plasma metabolome, whose activity varies according to disease severity and correlates with oxygen saturation. Differential metabolism underlying death was marked by amino acids and related metabolites, such as glutamate, glutamyl-glutamate, and oxoproline, and lipids, including progesterone, phosphocholine, and lysophosphatidylcholines (lysoPCs). Individuals who recovered from severe disease displayed persistent alterations enriched for metabolism of purines and phosphatidylinositol phosphate and glycolysis. Recovery of mild disease was associated with vitamin E metabolism. Data integration shows that the metabolic response is a hub connecting other biological features during disease and recovery. Infection by SARS-CoV-2 induces concerted activity of metabolic and inflammatory responses that depend on disease severity and collectively predict clinical outcomes of COVID-19. COVID-19 is characterized by diverse clinical outcomes that include asymptomatic to mild manifestations or severe disease and death. Infection by SARS-CoV-2 activates inflammatory and metabolic responses that drive protection or pathology. How inflammation and metabolism communicate during COVID-19 is not well defined. We used high-resolution mass spectrometry to investigate small biochemical compounds (<1,500 Da) in plasma of individuals with COVID-19 and controls. Age, sex, and comorbidities have a profound effect on the plasma metabolites of individuals with COVID-19, but we identified significant activity of pathways and metabolites related to amino acids, lipids, nucleotides, and vitamins determined by disease severity, survival outcome, and recovery. Furthermore, we identified metabolites associated with acute-phase proteins and coagulation factors, which collectively identify individuals with severe disease or individuals who died of severe COVID-19. Our study suggests that manipulating specific metabolic pathways can be explored to prevent hyperinflammation, organ dysfunction, and death.
Gardinassi LG, Servian CP, Lima GS, Spadafora-Ferreira M. Integrated metabolic and inflammatory signatures associated with severity of, fatality of, and recovery from COVID-19. Microbiol Spectr. 2023 Feb; 11(2):e02194-22. doi:10.1128/spectrum.02194-22.
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