Biomarkers to predict the prognosis of COVID-19 symptomatology

    Researchers from the IREC, the Hospital General Universitario of Ciudad Real and the Local Medical Service of Horcajo de los Montes help to assess the probability that patients hospitalized for COVID-19 progress to recovery or, on the contrary, develop severe symptoms.

    The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 is being devastating globally. The identification of prognostic biomarkers and physiological processes associated with disease symptoms is relevant for the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic interventions to contribute to the control of this pandemic.

    To address this challenge, researchers from the Research Group in Health and Biotechnology (SaBio) of the Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC – CSIC, UCLM, JCCM) established a multidisciplinary collaboration with doctors José Miguel Urra y Natalia Jimenez Collados, from the Section of Immunology of the Hospital General Universitario of Ciudad Real, and doctor Francisco J. Rodríguez del Río, from the Local Medical Service of Horcajo de los Montes (Ciudad Real).

    This study contributes to the One Health perspective applied by the SaBio Group of the IREC, integrating studies with applications in human health with the animal world and the environment.

    This working group has carried out a quantitative proteomics study using SWATH-MS (Sequential Windowed data independent Acquisition of the Total High-resolution Mass Spectra), together with multiple data analysis algorithms, to characterize serum protein profiles in five groups of individuals with different severity of the disease: healthy (sampled before the pandemic), asymptomatic, recovered (hospital discharge), nonsevere (hospitalized) and severe cases (in ICU). Despite the number of proteomic studies carried out on the infection with SARS-CoV-2 since the beginning of the pandemic, this is the first that has analyzed these 5 groups in parallel.

    Experimental study design.

    The results, in addition to confirming previous findings from other studies, have contributed to the characterization of the interactions of SARS-CoV-2 with the host and have made it possible to identify new serum biomarkers, affected biological processes, and physiological disorders related to disease progression and symptomatology.

    Thus, immunological biomarkers related to recovery from the disease have been identified, such as selenoprotein P (SELENOP) and serum paraoxonase / arylesterase 1 (PON1); biomarkers of severity, such as carboxypeptidase B2 (CBP2) and biomarkers of symptomatology, such as pregnancy-associated protein (PZP).

    These proteins also have the advantage of being very abundant in serum and, therefore, are very useful in conjunction with diagnostic RNA, antigen, and antibody detection tests, not only to complement other previously identified biomarkers such as IL-6, but also to assess the likelihood that hospitalized patients progress to recovery or, conversely, develop severe symptoms.

    Prognostic biomarker proteins related to the symptoms of COVID-19.

    This work, which has been funded by the Regional Government of Castilla-La Mancha (JCCM) and EU-FEDER (projects GALINFEC SBPLY/17/180501/000185 and MYCOTRAINING SBPLY/19/180501/000174), has contributed significantly to translational medicine, providing new clinical tools for the global monitoring and control of this pandemic and to be better prepared against other infectious diseases.

    The scientific publication of this research is available at: