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Lower respiratory tract myeloid cells harbor SARS-CoV-2 and display an inflammatory phenotype

By William G Bain, Hernan F. Penaloza, Mark S. Ladinsky, Rick van der Geest, Mara Sullivan, Mark Ross, Georgios D Kitsios, Barbara Methe, Bryan J. McVerry, Alison Morris, Alan M. Watson, Simon C. Watkins, Claudette M. St. Croix, Donna Beer Stolz, Pamela Bjorkman, Janet S. Lee

Posted 14 Aug 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.08.11.20171967

SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia may induce an aberrant immune response with brisk recruitment of myeloid cells into the lower respiratory tract, which may contribute to morbidity and mortality. We describe endotracheal aspirate samples from seven patients with SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia requiring mechanical ventilation. We note SARS-CoV-2 virions within lower respiratory tract myeloid cells shown by electron tomography, immunofluorescence confocal imaging, and immuno-electron microscopy. Endotracheal aspirates are primarily composed of mononuclear and polymorphonuclear leukocytes. These myeloid cells that harbor virus are frequently positive for CD14 and/or CD16 and most display an inflammatory phenotype marked by expression of IL-6 and tissue factor mRNA transcript and protein expression.

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