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Restoration of leukomonocyte counts is associated with viral clearance in COVID-19 hospitalized patients

By Xiaoping Chen, Jiaxin Ling, Pingzheng Mo, Yongxi Zhang, Qunqun Jiang, Zhiyong Ma, Qian Cao, Wenjia Hu, Shi Zou, Liangjun Chen, Lei Yao, Mingqi Luo, Tielong Chen, Liping Deng, Ke Liang, Shihui Song, Rongrong Yang, Ruiying Zheng, Shicheng Gao, Xien Gui, Hengning Ke, Wei Hou, Åke Lundkvist, Yong Xiong

Posted 06 Mar 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.03.20030437

BackgroundViral clearance is one important indicator for the recovery of SARS-CoV-2 infected patients. Previous studies have pointed out that suboptimal T and B cell responses can delay viral clearance in MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV infected patients. The role of leukomonocytes in viral clearance of COVID-19 patients is not yet well defined. MethodsFrom January 26 to February 28, 2020, an observational study was launched at the Department of Infectious Diseases, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan, China. We enrolled 25 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients, whose throat-swab specimens were tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection by qRT-PCR. To investigate the factors that contribute to the viral clearance, we comprehensively analyzed clinical records, counts of lymphocyte subsets including CD3+, CD4+, CD8+ T cells, B cells and NK cells in the patients who successfully cleared SARS-CoV-2, and compared to those that failed to, after a standardized treatment of 8-14 days. FindingsIn 25 enrolled COVID-19 patients, lymphopenia was a common feature. After the treatment, 14 out of the 25 enrolled patients were tested negative for SARS-CoV-2. The patients that cleared the infection had restored the numbers of CD3+, CD4+, CD8+ T cells and B cells as compared to the still viral RNA positive patients, while the recovered patients had a higher count of leukomonocytes. ConclusionsBy comparison of leukomonocytes counts in COVID-19 patients at different stages of the disease, we found that CD3+, CD4+, CD8+ T cells and B cells appear to play important roles in viral clearance. The restoration of leukomonocytes counts from peripheral blood can be used as prognosis for the recovery of an COVID-19 infection. We propose that restoration of leukomonocytes counts can be added to the COVID-19 diagnostic guidance as a criterion for releasing and discharging patients.

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