New study reveals metabolic signature of SARS-CoV-2 infection involving signs of multi-organ damage

SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, can lead to a broad range of symptoms, from absolutely nothing to multi-organ failure, severe respiratory stress, and eventually death. Although the virus specifically targets the lungs, several patients also experience non-respiratory symptoms.

SARS-CoV-2 Virus

Image Credit: Kateryna Kon/

Recently, as part of a study published in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, researchers compared metabolites and lipoproteins that occur in the blood of COVID-19 patients and healthy subjects, unraveling signs of multi-organ damage in patients. This could be helpful in the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 in the future.

Existing diagnostic tests performed for COVID-19 are based on the detection of viral RNA or antibodies against the virus. Both these tests are likely to generate false-negative results, apart from other shortcomings.

Another viable method to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection could be to examine metabolic changes caused by the virus in an infected individual. Jeremy Nicholson, Elaine Holmes, and their collaborators intended to examine the systemic effects of the disease and identify whether COVID-19 exhibits a general metabolic signature.

The research team isolated blood samples from 17 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 with recent assays and from 25 healthy controls who were matched for age, sex, and body mass index and tested negative for current or earlier SARS-CoV-2 infection with an antibody test.

Next, the researchers analyzed the metabolite, plasma lipoprotein, and amino acid levels in blood plasma with liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Multivariate statistical analyses that identify differences between patients and controls were used to unravel a metabolic signature of SARS-CoV-2 infection, which involves symptoms of diabetes, liver dysfunction, acute inflammation, and cardiovascular disease risk.

At present, the researchers are validating the information in a wider group of patients. According to the researchers, apart from potential applications to design a metabolite-based diagnostic test, these findings imply that recovered COVID-19 patients should be assessed for higher risks of other conditions.

Journal reference:

Kimhofer, T., et al. (2020) Integrative Modelling of Quantitative Plasma Lipoprotein, Metabolic and Amino Acid Data Reveals a Multi-organ Pathological Signature of SARS-CoV-2 Infection. Journal of Proteome Research.


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