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ObjectivesThe role of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is unknown. Understanding the immune response in COVID-19 could contribute to unravel the pathogenesis and identification of treatment targets. To describe the phenotypic landscape of circulating ILCs in COVID-19 patients and to identify ILC phenotypes correlated to serum biomarkers, clinical markers, and laboratory parameters relevant in COVID-19. MethodsBlood samples collected from moderately (n=11) and severely ill (n=12) COVID-19 patients as well as healthy control donors (n=16), were analyzed with 18-parameter flow cytometry. Using supervised and unsupervised approaches, we examined the ILC activation status and homing profile. Clinical and laboratory parameters were obtained from all COVID-19 patients and serum biomarkers were analyzed with multiplex immunoassays. ResultsILCs were largely depleted from the circulation of COVID-19 patients compared with healthy controls. Remaining circulating ILCs from patients revealed increased frequencies of ILC2 in moderate COVID-19, with a concomitant decrease of ILC precursors (ILCp), as compared with controls. ILC2 and ILCp showed an activated phenotype with increased CD69 expression, whereas expression levels of the chemokine receptors CXCR3 and CCR4 were significantly altered in ILC2 and ILCp, and ILC1, respectively. The activated ILC profile of COVID-19 patients was associated with soluble inflammatory markers, while frequencies of ILC subsets were correlated with laboratory parameters that reflect the disease severity. ConclusionThis study provides insights into the potential role of ILCs in immune responses against SARS-CoV-2, particularly linked to the severity of COVID-19.

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