Metabolic and Lipidomic Markers Differentiate COVID-19 From Non-Hospitalized and Other Intensive Care Patients

Franziska Schmelter, Bandik Föh, Alvaro Mallagaray, Johann Rahmöller, Marc Ehlers, Selina Lehrian, Vera von Kopylow, Inga Künsting, Anne Sophie Lixenfeld, Emily Martin, Mohab Ragab, Roza Meyer-Saraei, Fabian Kreutzmann, Ingo Eitel, Stefan Taube, Nadja Käding, Eckard Jantzen, Tobias Graf, Christian Sina, Ulrich L Günther


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a viral infection affecting multiple organ systems of great significance for metabolic processes. Thus, there is increasing interest in metabolic and lipoprotein signatures of the disease, and early analyses have demonstrated a metabolic pattern typical for atherosclerotic and hepatic damage in COVID-19 patients. However, it remains unclear whether this is specific for COVID-19 and whether the observed signature is caused by the disease or rather represents an underlying risk factor. To answer this question, we have analyzed 482 serum samples using nuclear magnetic resonance metabolomics, including longitudinally collected samples from 12 COVID-19 and 20 cardiogenic shock intensive care patients, samples from 18 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) antibody-positive individuals, and single time point samples from 58 healthy controls. COVID-19 patients showed a distinct metabolic serum profile, including changes typical for severe dyslipidemia and a deeply altered metabolic status compared with healthy controls. Specifically, very-low-density lipoprotein and intermediate-density lipoprotein particles and associated apolipoprotein B and intermediate-density lipoprotein cholesterol were significantly increased, whereas cholesterol and apolipoprotein A2 were decreased. Moreover, a similarly perturbed profile was apparent when compared with other patients with cardiogenic shock who are in the intensive care unit when looking at a 1-week time course, highlighting close links between COVID-19 and lipid metabolism. The metabolic profile of COVID-19 patients distinguishes those from healthy controls and also from patients with cardiogenic shock. In contrast, anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody-positive individuals without acute COVID-19 did not show a significantly perturbed metabolic profile compared with age- and sex-matched healthy controls, but SARS-CoV-2 antibody-titers correlated significantly with metabolic parameters, including levels of glycine, ApoA2, and small-sized low- and high-density lipoprotein subfractions. Our data suggest that COVID-19 is associated with dyslipidemia, which is not observed in anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody-positive individuals who have not developed severe courses of the disease. This suggests that lipoprotein profiles may represent a confounding risk factor for COVID-19 with potential for patient stratification.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Biosciences
Pages (from-to)737039
Publication statusPublished - 02.12.2021

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)
  • Centers: Cardiological Center Luebeck (UHZL)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 205-15 Gastroenterology
  • 205-13 Pneumology, Thoracal Surgery
  • 204-04 Virology
  • 204-05 Immunology
  • 205-12 Cardiology, Angiology

Coronavirus related work

  • Research on SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19


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