Identification of IL-6 Signalling Components as Predictors of Severity and Outcome in COVID-19.

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IL-6 is one of the major mediators of the hyper-inflammatory responses with complex biological functions as it can signal via different modes of action. IL-6 by classical signalling has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities, while trans-signalling mediates pro-inflammatory effects. The net biological effect of IL-6 is established by multiple factors beyond its absolute concentration. Here, we assess the relationship between IL-6 signalling variables [IL-6, soluble IL-6R (sIL-6R) and soluble gp130 (sgp130)] and outcomes in a cohort of 366 COVID-19 patients. The potential trans-signalling was evaluated by a ratio between the pro-inflammatory binary IL-6:sIL-6R complex and the inactive ternary IL-6:sIL-6R:sgp130 complex (binary/ternary complex) and the fold molar excess of sgp130 over sIL-6R (FME). Our data provide new evidence that high levels of IL-6, sIL-6R, sgp130, binary/ternary complex ratio, and low FME are independent predictors of COVID-19 severity in survivor patients (without death), and the combination of IL-6 + sIL-6R + sgp130 exhibited the most robust classification capacity. Conversely, in a subgroup of patients with a very poor prognosis, we found that high levels of IL-6 and low levels of sIL-6R, sgp130, and binary/ternary complex ratio were predictors of death. In this context, the highest predictive capacity corresponded to the combined analysis of IL-6 + FME + lymphopenia + creatinine. Herein, we present IL-6 signalling variables as a helpful tool for the early identification and stratification of patients with clear implications for treatment and clinical decision-making.
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COVID-19, IL-6, IL-6 trans-signalling, soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R), soluble gp130 (sgp130), soluble receptors