Sci Rep 11 (1) 6357 [2021-03-18; online 2021-03-18]
The recent SARS-CoV-2 pandemic manifests itself as a mild respiratory tract infection in most individuals, leading to COVID-19 disease. However, in some infected individuals, this can progress to severe pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), leading to multi-organ failure and death. This study explores the proteomic differences between mild, severe, and critical COVID-19 positive patients to further understand the disease progression, identify proteins associated with disease severity, and identify potential therapeutic targets. Blood protein profiling was performed on 59 COVID-19 mild (n = 26), severe (n = 9) or critical (n = 24) cases and 28 controls using the OLINK inflammation, autoimmune, cardiovascular and neurology panels. Differential expression analysis was performed within and between disease groups to generate nine different analyses. From the 368 proteins measured per individual, more than 75% were observed to be significantly perturbed in COVID-19 cases. Six proteins (IL6, CKAP4, Gal-9, IL-1ra, LILRB4 and PD-L1) were identified to be associated with disease severity. The results have been made readily available through an interactive web-based application for instant data exploration and visualization, and can be accessed at https://phidatalab-shiny.rosalind.kcl.ac.uk/COVID19/ . Our results demonstrate that dynamic changes in blood proteins associated with disease severity can potentially be used as early biomarkers to monitor disease severity in COVID-19 and serve as potential therapeutic targets.