Scientists find the cause of severe COVID-19

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A new study has shed light on why COVID-19 affects people so differently, ranging from mild symptoms to severe cases that require ventilators.

Researchers have now identified key factors that might predict who is at greater risk for severe illness and who is more likely to survive after becoming critically ill.

This research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, was conducted through the Immunophenotyping Assessment in a COVID-19 Cohort (IMPACC) study, a collaboration involving the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and 15 other research institutions, including Yale School of Medicine.

The study analyzed immune response data from over 1,000 patients by looking at their samples during hospitalization and up to a year afterwards. This approach allowed researchers to delve deeply into how the disease differs from person to person.

Using a combination of genomic, proteomic, and transcriptomic data—often referred to as multiomics—the researchers were able to provide one of the most comprehensive analyses to date on COVID-19.

At Yale, this massive effort was led by notable figures such as Ruth R. Montgomery, Ph.D., and David A. Hafler, MD, alongside Steven Kleinstein, Ph.D., who managed the data analysis across various sites.

The complex data from these thousands of participants were modeled by Jeremy Gygi, a Ph.D. candidate, who emphasized the integration of various biological information to explain different COVID-19 outcomes.

In their sophisticated analysis, the team used latent factor modeling to identify patterns that might explain why some people experience severe disease and others do not.

These models were crucial in determining what biological processes were most associated with severe COVID-19 trajectories and mortality.

One of the critical findings was the role of immune discoordination, particularly in interferon signaling, a crucial part of the immune response, which seemed to predict the likelihood of death in severe cases.

Leying Guan, Ph.D., the senior author of the study, pointed out that while many of the markers they identified had been noted in previous studies, their research added a temporal perspective.

This allowed them to observe how these biological markers evolved over time and how they interacted with each other in the course of the disease.

Among the findings, factors like inflammation, a reduction in certain types of T cells, and changes in the metabolism of tryptophan, an amino acid, were linked to the severity of the disease.

The study’s ability to track these changes over time provided new insights into how severe COVID-19 develops and progresses.

This research not only enhances our understanding of COVID-19 but also sets a foundation for future studies.

The researchers are optimistic about using similar techniques to explore long COVID, aiming to uncover how some people develop lingering symptoms after the acute phase of the infection.

By demystifying the complex interactions and progression of COVID-19 in the body, this study opens new avenues for potentially more effective treatments, both for acute cases and for those dealing with the prolonged impacts of the disease.

If you care about COVID-19, please read studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to severe COVID-19, death, and how diets could help manage post-COVID syndrome.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies that low-sodium plant-based diets may prevent COVID-19 better, and results showing zinc could help reduce COVID-19 infection risk.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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