Altered immune cell differentiation in the lungs of patients with critical COVID-19


This preprint from Wauters et al. analysed the single-cell transcriptome of bronchoalveolar lavages from 5 patients with mild and 26 patients with critical COVID-19, and detected important differences in immune cell functionality. In mild COVID-19, T cells assumed a resident memory CD8+ or T helper 17 (TH17) cell phenotype, whereas in critical COVID-19 they acquired an exhausted phenotype. In mild COVID-19, monocytes differentiated into macrophages with phagocytic and antigen-presenting capacity, whereas in critical COVID-19 monocytes did not differentiate and showed a pro-inflammatory phenotype. Interestingly, neutrophils showed a large capacity to phagocytose viral particles and/or infected cells. Future longitudinal analyses may show how immune cell differentiation correlates to the disease course of COVID-19.


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  1. Wauters, E. et al. Discriminating mild from critical COVID-19 by innate and adaptive immune single-cell profiling of bronchoalveolar lavages. Preprint at bioRxiv (2020)

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Correspondence to Erinke van Grinsven or Kathrin Jansen.

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van Grinsven, E., Jansen, K. Altered immune cell differentiation in the lungs of patients with critical COVID-19. Nat Rev Immunol 20, 592 (2020).

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