The inflammatory response to SARS/CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection may contribute to the risk of thromboembolic complications. α-Defensins, antimicrobial peptides released from activated neutrophils, are anti-fibrinolytic and prothrombotic in vitro and in mouse models. In this prospective study of 176 patients with COVID-19 infection, we found that plasma levels of α-defensins were elevated, tracked with disease progression/mortality or resolution and with plasma levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and D-dimers. Immunohistochemistry revealed intense deposition of α-defensins in lung vasculature and thrombi. IL-6 stimulated the release of α-defensins from neutrophils, thereby accelerating coagulation and inhibiting fibrinolysis in human blood, imitating the coagulation pattern in COVID-19 patients. The procoagulant effect of IL-6 was inhibited by colchicine, which blocks neutrophil degranulation. These studies describe a link between inflammation and the risk of thromboembolism, and they identify a potential new approach to mitigate this risk in patients with COVID-19 and potentially in other inflammatory prothrombotic conditions.
- COVID-19 infection
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