Rationale: Systemic activation of procoagulant and inflammatory mechanisms has been implicated in the pathogenesis of COVID-19. Knowledge of activation of these host response pathways in the lung compartment of COVID-19 patients is limited.
Objectives: To evaluate local and systemic activation of coagulation and interconnected inflammatory responses in critically ill COVID-19 patients with persistent acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Methods: Paired bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and plasma samples were obtained from 17 patients with COVID-19 related persistent acute respiratory distress syndrome (mechanical ventilation > 7 days) 1 and 2 weeks after start mechanical ventilation and compared with 8 healthy controls. Thirty-four host response biomarkers stratified into five functional domains (coagulation, complement system, cytokines, chemokines and growth factors) were measured.
Measurements and Main Results: In all patients, all functional domains were activated, especially in the bronchoalveolar compartment, with significantly increased levels of D-dimers, thrombin-antithrombin complexes, soluble tissue factor, C1-inhibitor antigen and activity levels, tissue type plasminogen activator, plasminogen activator inhibitor type I, soluble CD40 ligand and soluble P-selectin (coagulation), next to activation of C3bc and C4bc (complement) and multiple interrelated cytokines, chemokines and growth factors. In 10 patients in whom follow-up samples were obtained between 3 and 4 weeks after start mechanical ventilation many bronchoalveolar and plasma host response biomarkers had declined.
Conclusions: Critically ill, ventilated patients with COVID-19 show strong responses relating to coagulation, the complement system, cytokines, chemokines and growth factors in the bronchoalveolar compartment. These results suggest a local pulmonary rather than a systemic procoagulant and inflammatory "storm" in severe COVID-19.