“The deficiency of type 1 interferons in the blood could be a signature of severe forms of Covid-19”, concludes this study published this week in the American journal Science.
Interferons are proteins of the cytokine family produced in particular by cells of the immune system in response to the presence of an infection.
About 5% of people with Covid-19 progress to a severe or critical form, with severe pneumonia that turns into acute respiratory distress syndrome, often occurring 9 to 12 days after the onset of the first mild to moderate symptoms.
Researchers believe that this worsening is caused by a sharp increase in cytokines, which causes a runaway of the “inflammatory response” of the body. But doctors cannot say precisely which patients will develop this serious form of the disease, beyond the risk factors observed (diabetes, obesity, advanced age, etc.)
However, this is “an essential question (…) to improve individual care and the prognosis of these patients”, observed Thursday in a press release Inserm, the University of Paris, the Institute Imagine, the Public Assistance-Hospitals of Paris (AP-HP) and the Pasteur Institute.
The study authors, from these organizations, performed analyzes on 50 patients with Covid-19, with different degrees of severity.
It shows that in seriously ill patients “the production and activity of type 1 interferons are greatly reduced”. They also have “a persistent viral load in the blood, testifying to the poor control of viral replication by the immune system of patients and leading to the runaway of an ineffective and pathological inflammatory response”.
The study also reveals that “low levels of type 1 interferons in plasma precede the clinical worsening of patients and their transfer to intensive care.”
Therefore, type 1 interferon deficiency “could be a signature of the severe forms of Covid-19 and could help identify a high-risk population”.
In addition, these results “underline the interest of therapeutic approaches associating the early administration of interferons with an adapted anti-inflammatory therapy (…) in patients preventing a severe form”, conclude the authors.