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The relationship between gastrointestinal tract infection, the host immune response, and the clinical outcome of disease is not well understood in COVID-19. We sought to understand the effect of intestinal immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 on patient outcomes including the magnitude of systemic antibody induction. Combining two prospective cohort studies, International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infections Consortium Comprehensive Clinical Characterisations Collaboration (ISARIC4C) and Integrated Network for Surveillance, Trials and Investigations into COVID-19 Transmission (INSTINCT), we acquired samples from 88 COVID-19 cases representing the full spectrum of disease severity and analysed viral RNA and host gut cytokine responses in the context of clinical and virological outcome measures. There was no correlation between the upper respiratory tract and faecal viral loads. Using hierarchical clustering, we identified a group of fecal cytokines including Interleukin-17A, Granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor, Tumor necrosis factorα, Interleukin-23, and S100A8, that were transiently elevated in mild cases and also correlated with the magnitude of systemic anti-Spike-receptor-binding domain antibody induction. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis showed that expression of these gut cytokines at study enrolment in hospitalised COVID-19 cases was associated negatively with overall clinical severity implicating a protective role in COVID-19. This suggests that a productive intestinal immune response may be beneficial in the response to a respiratory pathogen and a biomarker of a successful barrier response.

Original publication




Journal article


Mucosal Immunol

Publication Date