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  • ReceivedFeb 17, 2020
  • AcceptedMar 2, 2020
  • PublishedMar 9, 2020


A recent outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan, China was found to be caused by a 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV or SARS-CoV-2 or HCoV-19). We previously reported the clinical features of 12 patients with 2019-nCoV infections in Shenzhen, China. To further understand the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and find better ways to monitor and treat the disease caused by 2019-nCoV, we measured the levels of 48 cytokines in the blood plasma of those 12 COVID-19 patients. Thirty-eight out of the 48 measured cytokines in the plasma of 2019-nCoV-infected patients were significantly elevated compared to healthy individuals. Seventeen cytokines were linked to 2019-nCoV loads. Fifteen cytokines, namely M-CSF, IL-10, IFN-α2, IL-17, IL-4, IP-10, IL-7, IL-1ra, G-CSF, IL-12, IFN-γ, IL-1α, IL-2, HGF and PDGF-BB, were strongly associated with the lung-injury Murray score and could be used to predict the disease severity of 2019-nCoV infections by calculating the area under the curve of the receiver-operating characteristics. Our results suggest that 2019-nCoV infections trigger extensive changes in a wide array of cytokines, some of which could be potential biomarkers of disease severity of 2019-nCoV infections. These findings will likely improve our understanding of the immunopathologic mechanisms of this emerging disease. Our results also suggest that modulators of cytokine responses may play a therapeutic role in combating the disease once the functions of these elevated cytokines have been characterized.

Funded by

National Natural Science Foundation of China(Grant 81788101)

Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Innovation Fund for Medical Sciences(Grant 2017-12M-1-009)

Ministry of Science and Technology(2020YFC0846300)

National Science and Technology Major Project(2018ZX10711001)

Shenzhen Science and Technology Research and Development Project(202002073000001)


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