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In Open forum infectious diseases

BACKGROUND : The ongoing circulation of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) poses a diagnostic challenge because symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are difficult to distinguish from other respiratory diseases. Our goal was to use statistical analyses and machine learning to identify biomarkers that distinguish patients with COVID-19 from patients with influenza.

METHODS : Cytokine levels were analyzed in plasma and serum samples from patients with influenza and COVID-19, which were collected as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Hospitalized Adult Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network (inpatient network) and the US Flu Vaccine Effectiveness (outpatient network).

RESULTS : We determined that interleukin (IL)-10 family cytokines are significantly different between COVID-19 and influenza patients. The results suggest that the IL-10 family cytokines are a potential diagnostic biomarker to distinguish COVID-19 and influenza infection, especially for inpatients. We also demonstrate that cytokine combinations, consisting of up to 3 cytokines, can distinguish SARS-CoV-2 and influenza infection with high accuracy in both inpatient (area under the receiver operating characteristics curve [AUC] = 0.84) and outpatient (AUC = 0.81) groups, revealing another potential screening tool for SARS-CoV-2 infection.

CONCLUSIONS : This study not only reveals prospective screening tools for COVID-19 infections that are independent of polymerase chain reaction testing or clinical condition, but it also emphasizes potential pathways involved in disease pathogenesis that act as potential targets for future mechanistic studies.

Luciani Lauren L, Miller Leigh M, Zhai Bo, Clarke Karen, Hughes Kramer Kailey, Schratz Lucas J, Balasubramani G K, Dauer Klancie, Nowalk M Patricia, Zimmerman Richard K, Shoemaker Jason E, Alcorn John F


SARS-CoV-2, cytokine, human, machine learning, pneumonia