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Your Environment. Your Health.

New Marker of COVID-19 Severity Points to Potential Therapies

Bruce Hammock, Ph.D.
University of California, Davis
P42ES004699, R35ES030443

Certain fatty acids in the blood of COVID-19 patients may predict the severity of adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and offer a target for treatment, according to a new NIEHS-funded study. ARDS involves a buildup of fluid in the lungs and is a leading cause of death in COVID-19 patients.

In a pilot study, researchers examined six COVID-19 patients and found higher blood levels of certain fatty acids compared to healthy individuals. These fatty acids, called leukotoxins and leukotoxin diols, play a role in inflammatory disease and ARDS but have never been studied for their role in respiratory complications related to COVID-19 until now.

The scientists found that changes in leukotoxin diol concentrations and the ratio between leukotoxins and leukotoxin diols could be used to identify which samples came from COVID-19 patients. Leukotoxins come from linoleic acid, an abundant fat in the body, and are converted to leukotoxin diols by an enzyme called soluble epoxide hydrolase.

According to the researchers, conversion of fatty acids to the toxic leukotoxin diols may contribute to respiratory complications in COVID-19 patients and serve as a biomarker for ARDS severity among such patients. On the other hand, soluble epoxide hydrolase may represent a therapeutic target to reduce creation of leukotoxin diols and respiratory complications.

Citation: McReynolds, CB, Cortes-Puch I, Ravindran R, Khan IH, Hammock BG, Shih PB, Hammock BD, Yang J. 2021. Plasma linoleate diols are potential biomarkers for severe COVID-19 infections. Front Physiol 12:4663869.

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