Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is associated with immune dysregulation, severe respiratory failure, and multiple organ dysfunction caused by a cytokine storm involving high blood levels of ferritin and IL-18. Furthermore, there is a resemblance between COVID-19 and macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) characterized by high concentrations of soluble CD163 (sCD163) receptor and IL-18. High levels of ferritin, IL-18, and sCD163 receptor are associated with “hyperferritinemic syndrome”, a family of diseases that appears to include COVID-19. In this retrospective cohort study, we tested the association and intercorrelations in the serum levels of ferritin, sCD163, and IL-18 and their impact on the prognosis of COVID-19. We analyzed data of 70 hospitalized patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The levels of sCD163, ferritin, and IL-18 were measured and the correlation of these parameters with the respiratory deterioration and overall 30-day survival was assessed. Among the 70 patients, 60 survived 30 days from hospitalization. There were substantial differences between the subjects who were alive following 30 days compared to those who expired. The differences were referring to lymphocyte and leukocyte count, CRP, D-dimer, ferritin, sCD163, and IL-18. Results showed high levels of IL-18 (median, 444 pg/mL in the survival group compared with 916 pg/mL in the mortality group, p-value 8.54 × 10–2), a statistically significant rise in levels of ferritin (median, 484 ng/mL in the survival group compared with 1004 ng/mL in the mortality group p-value, 7.94 × 10–3), and an elevated value of in sCD163 (mean, 559 ng/mL in the survival group compared with 840 ng/mL in the mortality group, p-value 1.68 × 10–2). There was no significant correlation between the rise of ferritin and the levels sCD163 or IL-18. Taken together, sCD163, ferritin, and IL-18 were found to correlate with the severity of COVID-19 infection. Although these markers are associated with COVID-19 and might contribute to the cytokine storm, no intercorrelation was found among them. It cannot be excluded though that the results depend on the timing of sampling, assuming that they play distinct roles in different stages of the disease course. The data represented herein may provide clinical benefit in improving our understanding of the pathological course of the disease. Furthermore, measuring these biomarkers during the disease progression may help target them at the right time and refine the decision-making regarding the requirement for hospitalization.
- Cytokine storm
- Hyperferritinemic syndrome
- Macrophage activation syndrome