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The mechanisms that underpin COVID-19 disease severity, and determine the outcome of infection, are only beginning to be unraveled. The host inflammatory response contributes to lung injury, but circulating mediators levels fall below those in classical cytokine storms. We analyzed serial plasma samples from 619 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 recruited through the prospective multicenter ISARIC clinical characterization protocol U.K. study and 39 milder community cases not requiring hospitalization. Elevated levels of numerous mediators including angiopoietin-2, CXCL10, and GM-CSF were seen at recruitment in patients who later died. Markers of endothelial injury (angiopoietin-2 and von-Willebrand factor A2) were detected early in some patients, while inflammatory cytokines and markers of lung injury persisted for several weeks in fatal COVID-19 despite decreasing antiviral cytokine levels. Overall, markers of myeloid or endothelial cell activation were associated with severe, progressive, and fatal disease indicating a central role for innate immune activation and vascular inflammation in COVID-19.

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