BACKGROUND Elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines have been associated with poor outcomes among COVID-19 patients. It is unknown, however, how these levels compare with those observed in critically ill patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) or sepsis due to other causes.METHODS We used a Luminex assay to determine expression of 76 cytokines from plasma of hospitalized COVID-19 patients and banked plasma samples from ARDS and sepsis patients. Our analysis focused on detecting statistical differences in levels of 6 cytokines associated with cytokine storm (IL-1β, IL-1RA, IL-6, IL-8, IL-18, and TNF-α) between patients with moderate COVID-19, severe COVID-19, and ARDS or sepsis.RESULTS Fifteen hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 9 of whom were critically ill, were compared with critically ill patients with ARDS (n = 12) or sepsis (n = 16). There were no statistically significant differences in baseline levels of IL-1β, IL-1RA, IL-6, IL-8, IL-18, and TNF-α between patients with COVID-19 and critically ill controls with ARDS or sepsis.CONCLUSION Levels of inflammatory cytokines were not higher in severe COVID-19 patients than in moderate COVID-19 or critically ill patients with ARDS or sepsis in this small cohort. Broad use of immunosuppressive therapies in ARDS has failed in numerous Phase 3 studies; use of these therapies in unselected patients with COVID-19 may be unwarranted.FUNDING Funding was received from NHLBI K23 HL125663 (AJR); The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation OPP1113682 (AJR and CAB); Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Diseases #1016687 NIH/NIAID U19AI057229-16; Stanford Maternal Child Health Research Institute; and Chan Zuckerberg Biohub (CAB).


Jennifer G. Wilson, Laura J. Simpson, Anne-Maud Ferreira, Arjun Rustagi, Jonasel Roque, Adijat Asuni, Thanmayi Ranganath, Philip M. Grant, Aruna Subramanian, Yael Rosenberg-Hasson, Holden T. Maecker, Susan P. Holmes, Joseph E. Levitt, Catherine A. Blish, Angela J. Rogers


Download this citation for these citation managers:

Or, download this citation in these formats:

If you experience problems using these citation formats, send us feedback.