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Aberrant pathogenic GM-CSF+ T cells and inflammatory CD14+CD16+ monocytes in severe pulmonary syndrome patients of a new coronavirus

By Yonggang Zhou, Binqing Fu, Xiaohu Zheng, Dongsheng Wang, Changcheng Zhao, Yingjie qi, Rui Sun, Zhigang Tian, Xiaoling Xu, Haiming Wei

Posted 20 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.12.945576 (published DOI: 10.1093/nsr/nwaa041)

Pathogenic human coronavirus infections, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome CoV (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV (MERS-CoV), cause high morbidity and mortality. Recently, a severe pneumonia-associated respiratory syndrome caused by a new coronavirus was reported at December 2019 (2019-nCoV) in the city Wuhan, Hubei province, China, which was also named as pneumonia-associated respiratory syndrome (PARS). Up to 9th of February 2020, at least 37, 251 cases have been reported with 812 fatal cases according to the report from China CDC. However, the immune mechanism that potential orchestrated acute mortality from patients of 2019-nCoV is still unknown. Here we show that after the 2019-nCoV infection, CD4+, T lymphocytes are rapidly activated to become pathogenic T helper (Th) 1 cells and generate GM-CSF etc. The cytokines environment induces inflammatory CD14+CD16+ monocytes with high expression of IL-6 and accelerates the inflammation. These aberrant and excessive immune cells may enter the pulmonary circulation in huge numbers and play an immune damaging role to causing lung functional disability and quick mortality. Our results demonstrate that excessive non-effective host immune responses by pathogenic T cells and inflammatory monocytes may associate with severe lung pathology. Therefore, we suggest that monoclonal antibody that targets the GM-CSF or interleukin 6 receptor may potentially curb immunopathology caused by 2019-nCoV and consequently win more time for virus clearance.

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