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  • 1 National Institute of Hematology and Infectious Diseases, Szent Laszlo Campus, South Pest Central Hospital, Albert Florian ut 5-7., H-1097, Budapest, Hungary
  • | 2 Department of Internal Medicine and Haematology, Department of Infectious Diseases, Semmelweis University, Albert Florian ut 5-7., H-1097, Budapest, Hungary
  • | 3 School of PhD Studies, Semmelweis University, Ulloi ut 26., H-1085, Budapest, Hungary
  • | 4 Faculty of Medicine, Semmelweis University, Ulloi ut 26., H-1085, Budapest, Hungary
Open access

Abstract

Large randomized clinical trials in severe Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients have proven efficacy of intravenous tocilizumab. Our aim was to describe the laboratory parameters predicting in-hospital mortality of patients with tocilizumab administration in COVID-19 associated cytokine release syndrome (CRS).

We evaluated high-dose (8 mg/kg) intravenous tocilizumab administration in severe and critically ill COVID-19 adult patients fulfilling predefined strict CRS criteria. A single-centre, prospective, observational cohort study was carried out among consecutive adult (≥18 years of age) in-patients with COVID-19 between April 1 and December 31, 2020. The primary endpoint was 28-day all-cause mortality. The changes in laboratory parameters from baseline on day 7 and 14 after administration of tocilizumab were analysed.

In total, 1801 patients were admitted to our centre during the study period. One hundred and six patients received tocilizumab, and among them 62 (58.5%) required intensive care unit admittance while 25 (23.6%) deceased. At day 7 after tocilizumab administration, inflammatory markers (CRP, IL-6, ferritin) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) values were significantly lower among survivors. Subsequently, at day 14, differences of IL-6 and LDH levels has become more pronounced between subgroups. Restoration of absolute lymphocyte count (ALC) by day 7 and 14 was insufficient among patients who died.

In our cohort, administration of high-dose tocilizumab for COVID-19 patients with CRS demonstrated clinical and sustained biochemical parameter improvement in 76.4%. In this patient population high and increasing LDH, IL-6, and low ALC levels had a predictive role for mortality.

Abstract

Large randomized clinical trials in severe Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients have proven efficacy of intravenous tocilizumab. Our aim was to describe the laboratory parameters predicting in-hospital mortality of patients with tocilizumab administration in COVID-19 associated cytokine release syndrome (CRS).

We evaluated high-dose (8 mg/kg) intravenous tocilizumab administration in severe and critically ill COVID-19 adult patients fulfilling predefined strict CRS criteria. A single-centre, prospective, observational cohort study was carried out among consecutive adult (≥18 years of age) in-patients with COVID-19 between April 1 and December 31, 2020. The primary endpoint was 28-day all-cause mortality. The changes in laboratory parameters from baseline on day 7 and 14 after administration of tocilizumab were analysed.

In total, 1801 patients were admitted to our centre during the study period. One hundred and six patients received tocilizumab, and among them 62 (58.5%) required intensive care unit admittance while 25 (23.6%) deceased. At day 7 after tocilizumab administration, inflammatory markers (CRP, IL-6, ferritin) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) values were significantly lower among survivors. Subsequently, at day 14, differences of IL-6 and LDH levels has become more pronounced between subgroups. Restoration of absolute lymphocyte count (ALC) by day 7 and 14 was insufficient among patients who died.

In our cohort, administration of high-dose tocilizumab for COVID-19 patients with CRS demonstrated clinical and sustained biochemical parameter improvement in 76.4%. In this patient population high and increasing LDH, IL-6, and low ALC levels had a predictive role for mortality.

Introduction

Up to present day, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused around 150 million infections and more than 3 million deaths globally [1]. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is released in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, stimulating inflammatory pathways as part of the acute phase response.

Tocilizumab is a monoclonal antibody acting as an inhibitor of the soluble and membrane-associated IL-6 receptors. To date, apart from systemic corticosteroids, tocilizumab remains the only medication that has been shown to improve survival in severe and critically ill COVID-19 patients, probably due to its anti-inflammatory effects [2]. Earlier randomised controlled trials have predominantly shown no benefit from IL-6 antagonists, as most of the patients included in these studies were not critically ill or the drugs were administered in a relatively early stages of the disease, generating heterogeneity [3–8]. In contrast, Report of the Randomized Embedded Multifactorial Adaptive Platform for Community-acquired Pneumonia (REMAP-CAP) trial confirmed that administering tocilizumab for critically ill COVID-19 patients requiring organ support for less than 24 h resulted in improved outcomes including better survival [9]. More recently, the RECOVERY platform trial reported that a mortality benefit was seen in hypoxemic patients with hyperinflammation receiving tocilizumab and systemic corticosteroids. This observation supports the idea that a benefit of IL-6 blockade with tocilizumab may be demonstrated in the presence of COVID-19 associated cytokine release syndrome (CRS) [10, 11].

To date, multiple laboratory parameters associated with poor outcome in COVID-19 have recently been described, although these parameters are inconsistent across studies [12–14]. Administration of tocilizumab influences clinical outcome in COVID-19 associated CRS but data is scarce on dynamics of laboratory parameters and their impact on survival. Small case series report that high IL-6 level after 24–48 h after tocilizumab administration is linked with worse outcome, in spite of the fact that SARS-CoV-2 viral specific antibody response does not seem to be impaired by IL-6 antagonism [12, 13]. Elevated levels of lactate dehydrogenase and lymphopenia have also been linked with higher mortality in COVID-19 patients, but laboratory changes and their impact on survival after tocilizumab administration are not well understood [14].

At our national COVID-19 centre, a standardized clinical protocol has been in practice since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic based on strictly revised CRS criteria to facilitate clinical indication of tocilizumab use on case-by-case evaluation. Our aim was to describe laboratory changes possibly predicting the outcome of high-dose tocilizumab therapy among adult patients with COVID-19 associated CRS.

Methods

Study design and setting

A single-centre, prospective, interventional study was carried out among a cohort of consecutive adult (≥18 years of age at diagnosis) in-patients with COVID-19 and CRS, hospitalized at South Pest Central Hospital, National Institute of Hematology and Infectious Diseases (Budapest, Hungary) between 1 April and 31 December, 2020. Our centre is a tertiary referral institution and the main national COVID-19 hospital with more than 350 dedicated beds. The study was in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration and national ethical standards. The study protocol has been approved by the Institutional Review Board. As cytokine release syndrome is a potentially fatal complication of COVID-19, a randomized trial with a placebo arm was ethically not feasible.

An off-label emergency use of tocilizumab among other drugs in COVID-19 has been approved by the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition of Hungary and the Institutional Review Board.

Patient eligibility and participant selection

All COVID-19 patients admitted to our centre during the study period were eligible for inclusion. Patients with an established COVID-19 diagnosis were prospectively screened for inclusion by daily case assessments using hospital electronic records. Participant selection has been performed by using a priori inclusion/exclusion criteria. Inclusion criteria were: 1) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) -based confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 infection from a respiratory specimen, in a clinically compatible case with cytokine release syndrome (defined below); 2) received standard-of-care (SOC, defined below) for more than 48 h after diagnosis; 3) received a minimum of 1 dose of tocilizumab (8 mg/kg intravenously). Exclusion criteria were: 1) the patient died within ≤48 h after diagnosis; 2) received SOC for less than 48 h after diagnosis; 3) patient data were not fully accessible through the hospital electronic database.

Data collection

Data were collected manually from hospital electronic records and written charts, and anonymously transferred to a standardized case report form by study physicians. Collected data were: 1) age and gender; 2) comorbidities; 3) need for intensive care unit (ICU) admission during hospitalization; 4) length of stay (LOS) and ICU LOS; 4) clinical and laboratory parameters at baseline and on days 7 and 14 after tocilizumab administration; 5) radiological parameters at baseline; 6) microbiological parameters of concomittant infections during follow-up; 7) antimicrobial and other immunomodulatory therapies and supportive care; 8) patient outcomes at the end of the follow-up period. All baseline characteristics were recorded on the day of COVID-19 diagnosis.

COVID-19 diagnosis, treatment, and patient follow-up

For COVID-19 case definition and severity, we adhered to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) criteria, respectively [15, 16]. Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) was diagnosed based on a compatible case presentation (persistent fever for at least 72 h with or without deteriorating hypoxaemia) and simultaneous elevation of 3 out of 5 inflammatory markers: a serum ferritin level of ≥600 μg/L, a serum IL-6 level ≥3x and/or an LDH level ≥1x above the upper limit of normal (12.6 pg/mL and 480 IU/L at our centre, respectively), C-reactive protein level >100 mg/L, or an HScore of ≥250, as proposed by Fardet et al. [17]. Fever is defined as an axillary body temperature of ≥37.8 °C, measured with a digital thermometer. Hypoxaemia is defined as a resting O2 saturation of ≤93% on room air (measured by finger pulse-oxymetry), or an arterial partial O2 tension (PaO2)/inspirational O2 fraction (FiO2) of ≤300 Hgmm (measured by arterial blood gas analysis), with or without dyspnea or tachypnea. Deterioration of hypoxaemia is defined as a novel increase of inspirational O2 demand, necessitating a support through low or high flow nasal cannula, Venturi or noninvasive masking, or invasive mechanical ventilation.

Samples for respiratory SARS-CoV-2 PCR were taken by skilled nurses using nasopharyngeal (spontaneously breathing patients) or blind bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) sampling (intubated patients). Disease onset was defined as the first day of symptom appearance attributable to COVID-19, as reported by the patient, or day of first PCR positivity if symptom onset could not be clarified. The day of first SARS-CoV-2 PCR positivity has been marked as COVID-19 diagnosis day. Testing of respiratory samples to confirm SARS-CoV-2 PCR negativity was initiated after the day of defervescence and clinical stability and were collected every other day. SARS-CoV-2 PCR negativity was confirmed on the day when two consecutive samples returned with negative results.

SOC included intravenous remdesivir (200 mg on the first day, and 100 mg thereafter, for a minimum of 5 days) with intravenous or oral dexamethasone (6 mg daily, for a minimum of 5 days), and on-demand oxygen therapy or respiratory support, intravenous fluid replenishment, antipyretics and bronchodilator drugs. If CRS was diagnosed at admission or ≤72 h, 2 doses of intravenous tocilizumab (8 mg/kg each) has been administered within 24 h. Empirical antibiotics were initiated as advocated by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) community-acquired pneumonia guideline [18].

In-hospital follow-up consisted of daily visits of attending physicians. Patient care was facilitated by standardized written protocols and checklists, regularly updated since the start of the first wave based on growing scientific evidence. Physical examination, laboratory studies and arterial blood gas analyses were performed daily. Imaging studies (chest CT scans) were ordered on COVID-19 diagnosis day and repeated if disease progression or clinical instability was observed. Daily follow-up continued until the patients' death or hospital discharge. A post-discharge follow-up has not been routinely carried out.

Study outcomes

The primary outcome measure was 28-day all-cause mortality, defined as death within 28 days from COVID-19 diagnosis during hospital stay. Secondary endpoints were: 1) need for ICU admittance; 2) need for invasive mechanical ventilation; 3) rate and time to respiratory SARS-CoV-2 PCR clearance (during hospital stay or at discharge); 3) rate of any in-hospital infectious complication.

Statistical methods

Continuous variables were expressed as median±interquartile range (IQR), normality was tested by the Shapiro–Wilk test. Categorical variables were expressed as absolute numbers (n) with relative percentages (%). Statistical comparisons were done with Mann–Whitney U-test or Fisher's exact test.

For all statistical tests, a 2-tailed P-value of <0.05 determined statistical significance. Data collection was carried out with Microsoft Office Excel 2016, tests were calculated using IBM SPSS Statistics 23. For reporting, we adhere to the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) Statement.

Results

During the study period, 106 adult COVID-19 in-patients with CRS receiving tocilizumab were included in the final cohort from 1801 patients screened (5.8%). Demographic and clinical characteristics at baseline are shown in Table 1. Median age of included patients was 64 ± 18 (27–85) years. Patients were mostly males (69.8%), prevalent comorbidities were diabetes mellitus (24.5%), chronic heart disease (23.6%) and chronic pulmonary disease (16.0%). Patients who passed more frequently had chronic heart and renal diseases (44% vs. 17.3%, P < 0.01 and 8.6% vs. 28%, P = 0.01, respectively), while other underlying conditions did not differ statistically between survivors and non-survivors. Baseline clinical characteristics, namely presence of fever and markers of oxygenation were balanced between the subgroups.

Table 1.

Demographic and clinical characteristics of adult COVID-19 in-patients receiving high-dose tocilizumab, grouped by 28-day mortality

ParameterTotal (n = 106)Survived (n = 81)Died (n = 25)P value
Age (years, median ± IQR, min–max)64 ± 18 (27–85)60 ± 16 (27–80)69 ± 12 (38–85)0.19
Male gender (n, %)74 (69.8)56 (69.1)18 (72.0)0.84
Comorbidities (n, %):
–Chronic heart disease25 (23.6)14 (17.3)11 (44.0)0.01
–Chronic vascular disease15 (14.2)11 (13.6)4 (16.0)0.76
–Chronic pulmonary disease17 (16.0)10 (12.3)7 (28.0)0.06
–Chronic renal disease14 (13.2)7 (8.6)7 (28.0)0.01
–Chronic hepatic disease3 (2.8)3 (3.7)00.32
–Diabetes mellitus26 (24.5)17 (21.0)9 (36.0)0.12
–Active oncological malignancy11 (10.4)10 (12.3)1 (4.0)0.23
–Active hematological malignancy7 (6.6)5 (6.2)2 (8.0)0.74
–Systemic autoimmune disease2 (1.9)2 (2.5)00.43
–Chronic systemic corticosteroid treatment6 (5.7)4 (4.9)2 (8.0)0.56
–Chronic systemic immunosuppressive treatment1 (0.9)1 (1.2)00.57
–Smoking12 (11.3)10 (12.3)2 (8.0)0.55
Clinical characteristics:
–Fever (n, %)99 (93.4)76 (93.8)23 (92.0)0.39
–Horowitz index (mmHg, median ± IQR, min–max)180 ± 99 (104–397)190 ± 102 (104–390)166 ± 50 (128–397)0.08
–Need for oxygen supportation (n, %)103 (97.2)79 (97.5)24 (96.0)0.55
Laboratory characteristics (median ± IQR, min–max):
–Blood absolute neutrophil count (×109/L)5.9 ± 4.6 (1.4–34.2)5.8 ± 4.2 (1.4–18.9)6.8 ± 4.6 (1.6–34.2)0.34
–Blood absolute lymphocyte count (×109/L)0.9 ± 0.6 (0.3–9.3)0.9 ± 0.5 (0.3–9.3)0.6 ± 0.6 (0.3–1.7)0.01
–Blood platelet count (×109/L)214 ± 120 (13–510)218 ± 113 (86–510)182 ± 157 (13–382)0.06
–Serum C-reactive protein (mg/L)142 ± 156 (7–355)130 ± 167 (7–355)157 ± 96 (34–329)0.49
–Plasma Interleukin-6 (pg/mL)68.3 ± 120.6 (3.4–8,962.6)50.2 ± 97.1 (3.4–5,041.9)119.0 ± 454.5 (10.9–8,962.6)0.04
–Serum ferritin (μg/L)1,152 ± 1,181 (81–12,323)1,053 ± 999 (81–12,064)1,862 ± 1,864 (312–13,232)<0.01
–Serum LDH (IU/L)708 ± 386 (297–2,323)656 ± 267 (399–1,615)916 ± 445 (297–2,323)0.04
–Plasma D-dimer (ng/mL)1,027 ± 1,148 (203–122,027)1,009 ± 1,061 (203–12,202)1,103 ± 2,883 (380–58,515)0.34
Time from symptom onset to tocilizumab (days, median ± IQR, min–max)9 ± 4 (1–25)9 ± 4 (2–21)8 ± 7 (1–25)0.26
Time from respiratory PCR positivity to tocilizumab (days, median ± IQR, min–max)7 ± 5 (1–21)7 ± 5 (1–21)6 ± 7 (1–13)0.53
Time from admission to tocilizumab (days, median ± IQR, min–max)1 ± 3 (1–56)1 ± 2 (1–56)2 ± 4 (1–8)0.48
Administration of tocilizumab within 7 days of symptom onset (n, %)33 (31.1)22 (27.2)11 (44.0)0.21

Changes of COVID-19-specific laboratory parameters are shown in Fig. 1. At baseline, serum CRP (P = 0.49) and D-dimer levels (P = 0.34) did not differ statistically between the subgroups. At day 7, inflammatory markers (CRP 5 ± 7 vs. 17 ± 20 mg/L, P < 0.01; IL-6 189.0 ± 397.0 vs. 1,782.0 ± 5,683.3 pg/mL, P = 0.01; ferritin 715 ± 906 vs. 2,012 ± 2,176 μg/L, P < 0.01) and LDH values (606 ± 257 vs. 1,051 ± 604 IU/L, P < 0.01) were significantly lower among survivors, while at day 14, differences of IL-6 (86.0 ± 161.5 vs. 370.0 ± 8,739.3 pg/mL, P < 0.01) and LDH (483 ± 241 vs. 1,393 ± 1,276 IU/L, P < 0.01) levels became more pronounced between the subgroups. The absolute lymphocyte count by day 14 was also lower among patients who died (1.77 ± 0.88 vs. 1.04 ± 1.17 × 109/L, P = 0.1). Time from symptom onset, from respiratory PCR positivity and from admission to tocilizumab administration did not differ between the subgroups.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

Peripheral venous blood absolute lymphocyte counts (ALC, × 109/L), serum CRP (mg/L), plasma IL-6 (pg/mL), serum ferritin (μg/L), serum LDH (IU/L) and plasma D-dimer (ng/mL FEU) levels adult COVID-19 in-patients at baseline and days 7 and 14 after receiving tocilizumab, grouped by survival (survival: blue, death: green). Box middle lines represent medians, outer borders represent interquartile ranges, whiskers represent non-outlier min–max values. Blue circle: outlier, red square: extreme outlier

Citation: Acta Microbiologica et Immunologica Hungarica 68, 3; 10.1556/030.2021.01526

Outcome characteristics are shown in Table 2. In total, 28-day all-cause mortality was 23.6%. Sixty-two patients (58.5%) of the cohort needed ICU admittance, most of them (54 patients, 87.1%) required invasive mechanical ventilation as well. The rate of in-hospital infectious complications was statistically similar between survived and perished patients (8.6% vs. 24.0%, P = 0.07). Median time from admission to death was 13 ± 7 (5–27) days. Surviving patients reached respiratory SARS-CoV-2 PCR clearance in a higher rate (60.5% vs. 12.0%, P < 0.01). Experimental immunomodulatory therapies are detailed in Table 2, ruxolitinib was administered most frequently in the cohort (17.0%).

Table 2.

Outcome characteristics of adult COVID-19 in-patients receiving high-dose tocilizumab, grouped by 28-day mortality

ParameterTotal (n = 106)Survived (n = 81)Died (n = 25)P value
Need for ICU admittance62 (58.5)38 (46.9)24 (96.0)<0.01
Need for invasive mechanical ventilation (n, %)54 (50.9)30 (37.0)24 (96.0)<0.01
Rate of respiratory PCR clearance (n, %)52 (49.1)49 (60.5)3 (12.0)<0.01
Rate of any in-hospital infectious complication (n, %)13 (12.3)7 (8.6)6 (24.0)0.07
Time to respiratory PCR clearance (n, %)20 ± 13 (6–55)21 ± 13 (6–55)15 ± 7 (7–20)0.10
LOS (days, median ± IQR, min–max)20 ± 15 (1–65)24 ± 17 (1–65)8 ± 9 (1–22)<0.01
ICU LOS (days, median ± IQR, min–max)12 ± 13 (2–65)16 ± 15 (3–65)10 ± 8 (2–24)<0.01
Immunomodulatory therapies given (n, %):
–Ruxolitinib18 (17.0)13 (16.0)5 (20.0)0.64
–Baricitinib4 (3.8)4 (4.9)00.25
–Intravenous immunoglobulin9 (8.5)7 (8.6)2 (8.0)0.91
–Reconvalescent plasma2 (1.9)02 (8.0)0.05

Discussion

The present study on 106 adult patients receiving high-dose tocilizumab for COVID-19 associated CRS demonstrated high in-hospital survival (81/106, 76.4%) with sustained improvement of COVID-19 specific laboratory parameters.

Dysregulation of the immune system probably plays a crucial role in the clinical course of severe and critical COVID-19 [19]. Intervention in this pathological sequence of events at the intracellular level could potentially abate overflow of cytokine production. The anti-inflammatory effect of systemic corticosteroids was demonstrated to be beneficial among hospitalized COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen support [2]. Data accumulated over one year of the current pandemic suggests that medications modulating the immune system may be a promising strategy to treat COVID-19 patients.

Initial reports showed that high levels of inflammatory cytokines (mainly IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10, IFNγ, IP-10 and MCP-1) in COVID-19 patients are associated with more severe disease, pulmonary inflammation, and multiple organ failure [20, 21]. Most notably, IL-6 seems to play a crucial role, as in COVID-19 increased serum levels have been correlated with unfavorable outcomes such as respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and death [22, 23]. Previous studies in the pre-COVID-19 era focused on cytokine release syndrome and secondary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis with resembling pathophysiology and have already demonstrated the efficacy of IL-6 and IL-6R antagonists in these situations [24, 25].

Initial observational studies suggested that IL-6-targeted therapies, such as tocilizumab, may curb the dysregulated immune response in COVID-19 patients resulting in improved outcomes, such as lower risk of death or need for mechanical ventilation [26–33]. However, these studies were limited by several factors, such as lack of control groups, small patient populations or absence of adjusted analyses. Of note, dosing and criteria of tocilizumab administration were used differently and did not follow strict and homogenous CRS definitions, resulting in different and hardly comparable subpopulations and results for these treatment arms [4–6].

However, the recently published, so far the largest trial has demonstrated significantly reduced mortality among patients with elevated C-reactive protein levels (>75 mg/L) and documented need for supplementary oxygen. A benefit of tocilizumab was clearly demonstrated in addition to systemic corticosteroids [11]. This observation supports the hypothesis that IL-6 blockade may only be favorable in the presence of CRS.

Furthermore, large observational studies showed that if patients received tocilizumab within 24–48 h from the introduction of intensive support care, an improved survival could be recognized [10]. Importantly, this observation was confirmed by the recent report of Gordon et al. in the aformentioned multifactorial adaptive platform trial [9].

The findings of our study are consistent with the clinical observations of the above mentioned trials. Therefore, we postulate that administration of tocilizumab may add benefit in a restricted group of patients presenting in the definite ascendent phase of hyperinflammation reflected in laboratory parameters, in line with clinical deteroriation, most notably a persistent febrile state with or without hypoxaemia. Supposedly, neither too late nor too early administration of IL-6 blockade yields efficient intervention in hypercytokinaemia. Furthermore, we might postulate that low dose tocilizumab (<8 mg/kg) may not be sufficient to provide optimal effect in patients with COVID-19 associated CRS. In a recent retrospective study, lower doses of tocilizumab administration (400 mg for 30–100 kg and 600 mg over 100 kg) was related to a rebound of CRP levels, suggesting the need for higher and/or repeated doses of tocilizumab [34].

Laboratory parameters measured regularly in our study provided valuable data to predict mortality. Of note, CRP levels measured at baseline and on day 14 was not different between survivor and non-survivor patients. Baseline IL-6, ferritin and LDH levels were lower in the survival group, whereas ALC levels were higher, which is in line with previous observations [35, 36]. On days 7 and 14 LDH levels were significantly higher among patients who later perished, and showed progressive increase suggesting escalating lung injury. Also, levels of IL-6 also remained significantly higher on days 7 and 14, raising the concern that administration of IL-6 blockade was too late. Lower ALC levels at day 14 reflect delayed and defective immune response contributing to this poor outcome, as described earlier [37]. Notably, observations of our study suggest that LDH, IL-6 and ALC levels may have a predictive role for an unfavorable outcome in COVID-19 associated CRS patients treated with tocilizumab.

There are several limitations of our study. First, the lack of a matched control group. This could be explained by the fact that since the early beginning of the pandemic available data suggested an important role of IL-6 blockade in COVID-19 associated CRS. Therefore, based on local experience in stem cell transplant-associated CRS patients as well, we administered tocilizumab to practically all patients fulfilling criteria for this condition. Second, recommendations on antiviral medications for the treatment of COVID-19 changed vastly during the study period based on best available evidence. Third, administration of systemic corticosteroids has become part of routine clinical practice only since 1 September 2020, when national guidelines implemented positive findings of corticosteroid trials. Fourth, a relatively small number of subjects were included in the analysis.

Conclusion

In spite of limitations, findings from our cohort support the role of high-dose tocilizumab administration in COVID-19 associated CRS patients, and suggest that LDH, IL-6 and ALC levels may have a predictive role for mortality in this setting.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding this article. The Copyright Transfer Statement was completed by the corresponding author on behalf of all co-authors.

Funding

The article itself did not receive any external funding. BGSz received the EFOP-3.6.3-VEKOP-16-2017-00009 Doctorate Grant, and was supported by the ÚNKP-19-3-I-SE-74 New National Excellence Program of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology of Hungary. IVN received grant from the “Investment in the Future” found (Befektetés a Jövőbe Alap; 2020-1.1.6-JÖVŐ). The funding sources had no involvement in the preparation, writing, interpretation, or submission of this article.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the healthcare workers of our centre for their sacrifice during these times.

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    Henry BM , Aggarwal G , Wong J , Benoit S , Vikse J , Plebani M , et al.. Lactate dehydrogenase levels predict coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) severity and mortality: a pooled analysis. Am J Emerg Med 2020; 38: 172226. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajem.2020.05.073.

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    Fardet L , Galicier L , Lambotte O , Marzac C , Aumont C , Chahwan D , et al.. Development and validation of the HScore, a score for the diagnosis of reactive hemophagocytic syndrome. Arthritis Rheumatol 2014; 66: 261320.

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  • 18.

    Metlay JP , Waterer WG , Long AC , Anzueto A , Brozek J , Crothers K , et al.. Diagnosis and treatment of adults with community-acquired pneumonia. An official clinical practice guideline of the American Thoracic Society and Infectious Diseases Society of America. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2019; 200: e45-67.

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    Mehta P , McAuley DF , Brown M , Sanchez E , Tattersall RS , Manson JJ , et al.. COVID-19: consider cytokine storm syndromes and immunosuppression. Lancet 2020; 395: 10334. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30628-0.

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    Huang C , Wang Y , Li X , Ren L , Zhao J , Hu Y , et al.. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 2020; 395: 497506.

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    Diao B , Wang C , Tan Y , Chen X , Liu Y , Ning L , et al.. Reduction and functional exhaustion of T cells in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Front Immunol 2020; 11: 827. Published 2020 May 1. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.00827.

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    Han H , Ma Q , Li C , Liu R , Zhao L , Wang W , et al.. Profiling serum cytokines in COVİD-19 patients reveals IL-6 and IL-10 are disease severity predictors. Emerg Microbes Infect 2020; 9: 112330.

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    Jørgensen MJ , Holter JC , Christensen EE , Schalm J , Tonby K , Pischke SE , et al.. Increased interleukin-6 and macrophage chemoattractant protein-1 are associated with respiratory failure in COVID-19. Sci Rep 2020; 10: 21697. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-78710-7.

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    Lee DW , Gardner R , Porter DL , Louis CU , Ahmed N , Jensen M , et al.. Current concepts in the diagnosis and management of cytokine release syndrome. Blood 2014; 124: 18895.

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    Rojas-Marte G , Khalid M , Mukhtar O , Hashmi AT , Waheed MA , Ehrlich S , et al.. Outcomes in patients with severe COVID-19 disease treated with tocilizumab—a case-controlled study. QJM 2020; 113: 54650. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1093/qjmed/hcaa206.2020.

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    Rodríguez-Baño J , Pachón J , Carratalà J , Ryan P , Jarrin I , Yllescas M , et al.. Treatment with tocilizumab or corticosteroids for COVID-19 patients with hyperinflammatory state: a multicentre cohort study (SAM-COVID-19). Clin Microbiol Infect 2021; 27: 24452. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmi.2020.08.010.

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    Guaraldi G , Meschiari M , Cozzi-Lepri A , Milic J , Tonelli R , Menozzi M , et al.. Tocilizumab in patients with severe COVID-19. Lancet Rheumatol 2020; 2: e474-84. Available from: 10.1016/S2665-9913(20)30173-9.

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    Xu X , Han M , Li T , Sun W , Wang D , Fu B , et al.. Effective treatment of severe COVID-19 patients with tocilizumab. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020; 117: 1097075. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2005615117.

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    Morena V , Milazzo L , Oreni L , Bestetti G , Fossali T , Bassoli C , et al.. Off-label use of tocilizumab for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia in Milan, Italy. Eur J Intern Med 2020; 76: 3642. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejim.2020.05.011.

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    Capra R , De Rossi N , Mattioli F , Romanelli G , Scarpazza C , Pia Sormani M , et al.. Impact of low dose tocilizumab on mortality rate in patients with COVID-19 related pneumonia. Eur J Intern Med 2020; 76: 315. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejim.2020.05.009.

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    Masiá M , Fernández-González M , Padilla S , Ortega P , Garcia JA , Agullo V , et al.. Impact of interleukin-6 blockade with tocilizumab on SARS-CoV-2 viral kinetics and antibody responses in patients with COVID-19: a prospective cohort study. EBioMedicine 2020 Oct; 60: 102999. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2020.102999.

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    Henry BM , Aggarwal G , Wong J , Benoit S , Vikse J , Plebani M , et al.. Lactate dehydrogenase levels predict coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) severity and mortality: a pooled analysis. Am J Emerg Med 2020; 38: 172226. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajem.2020.05.073.

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    Fardet L , Galicier L , Lambotte O , Marzac C , Aumont C , Chahwan D , et al.. Development and validation of the HScore, a score for the diagnosis of reactive hemophagocytic syndrome. Arthritis Rheumatol 2014; 66: 261320.

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    • Export Citation
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    Metlay JP , Waterer WG , Long AC , Anzueto A , Brozek J , Crothers K , et al.. Diagnosis and treatment of adults with community-acquired pneumonia. An official clinical practice guideline of the American Thoracic Society and Infectious Diseases Society of America. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2019; 200: e45-67.

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19.

    Mehta P , McAuley DF , Brown M , Sanchez E , Tattersall RS , Manson JJ , et al.. COVID-19: consider cytokine storm syndromes and immunosuppression. Lancet 2020; 395: 10334. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30628-0.

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    Huang C , Wang Y , Li X , Ren L , Zhao J , Hu Y , et al.. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 2020; 395: 497506.

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    • Export Citation
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    Diao B , Wang C , Tan Y , Chen X , Liu Y , Ning L , et al.. Reduction and functional exhaustion of T cells in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Front Immunol 2020; 11: 827. Published 2020 May 1. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.00827.

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    Han H , Ma Q , Li C , Liu R , Zhao L , Wang W , et al.. Profiling serum cytokines in COVİD-19 patients reveals IL-6 and IL-10 are disease severity predictors. Emerg Microbes Infect 2020; 9: 112330.

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    Jørgensen MJ , Holter JC , Christensen EE , Schalm J , Tonby K , Pischke SE , et al.. Increased interleukin-6 and macrophage chemoattractant protein-1 are associated with respiratory failure in COVID-19. Sci Rep 2020; 10: 21697. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-78710-7.

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    Lee DW , Gardner R , Porter DL , Louis CU , Ahmed N , Jensen M , et al.. Current concepts in the diagnosis and management of cytokine release syndrome. Blood 2014; 124: 18895.

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    Fajgenbaum DC , June CH . Cytokine storm. N Engl J Med 2020; 383: 225573. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra2026131.

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    Campochiaro C . Efficacy and safety of tocilizumab in severe COVID-19 patients: a single-centre retrospective cohort study. Eur J Intern Med 2020; 76: 439.

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    • Export Citation
  • 27.

    Rojas-Marte G , Khalid M , Mukhtar O , Hashmi AT , Waheed MA , Ehrlich S , et al.. Outcomes in patients with severe COVID-19 disease treated with tocilizumab—a case-controlled study. QJM 2020; 113: 54650. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1093/qjmed/hcaa206.2020.

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 28.

    Rodríguez-Baño J , Pachón J , Carratalà J , Ryan P , Jarrin I , Yllescas M , et al.. Treatment with tocilizumab or corticosteroids for COVID-19 patients with hyperinflammatory state: a multicentre cohort study (SAM-COVID-19). Clin Microbiol Infect 2021; 27: 24452. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmi.2020.08.010.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 29.

    Guaraldi G , Meschiari M , Cozzi-Lepri A , Milic J , Tonelli R , Menozzi M , et al.. Tocilizumab in patients with severe COVID-19. Lancet Rheumatol 2020; 2: e474-84. Available from: 10.1016/S2665-9913(20)30173-9.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 30.

    Xu X , Han M , Li T , Sun W , Wang D , Fu B , et al.. Effective treatment of severe COVID-19 patients with tocilizumab. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020; 117: 1097075. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2005615117.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 31.

    Morena V , Milazzo L , Oreni L , Bestetti G , Fossali T , Bassoli C , et al.. Off-label use of tocilizumab for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia in Milan, Italy. Eur J Intern Med 2020; 76: 3642. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejim.2020.05.011.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 32.

    Capra R , De Rossi N , Mattioli F , Romanelli G , Scarpazza C , Pia Sormani M , et al.. Impact of low dose tocilizumab on mortality rate in patients with COVID-19 related pneumonia. Eur J Intern Med 2020; 76: 315. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejim.2020.05.009.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 33.

    Toniati P , Piva S , Cattalini M , Garrafa E , Regola F , Castelli F , et al.. Tocilizumab for the treatment of severe COVID-19 pneumonia with hyperinflammatory syndrome and acute respiratory failure. Autoimmun Rev 2020; 19: 102568. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2020.102568.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 34.

    Vu CA , DeRonde KJ , Vega AD , Maxam M , Holt G , Natori Y , et al.. Effects of Tocilizumab in COVID-19 patients: a cohort study. BMC Infect Dis 2020; 20: 964. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-020-05701-4.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 35.

    Wu J , Shen J , Han Y , Qiao Q , Dai W , He B , et al.. Upregulated IL-6 indicates a poor COVID-19 prognosis: a call for tocilizumab and convalescent plasma treatment. Front Immunol 2021; 12: 598799. Available from: https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.598799.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 36.

    Moutchia J , Pokharel P , Kerri A , McGaw K , Uchai S , Nji M , et al.. Clinical laboratory parameters associated with severe or critical novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One 2020; 15: e0239802. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239802.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 37.

    Galván-Román JM , Rodríguez-García SC , Roy-Vallejo E , Marcos-Jimenez A , Sanchez-Alonso S , Fernandez-Diaz C , et al.. IL-6 serum levels predict severity and response to tocilizumab in COVID-19: an observational study. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2021; 147: 7280.e8. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2020.09.018.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

 

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Senior editors

Editor-in-Chief: Prof. Dóra Szabó (Institute of Medical Microbiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary)

Managing Editor: Dr. Béla Kocsis (Institute of Medical Microbiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary)

Co-editor: Dr. Andrea Horváth (Institute of Medical Microbiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary)

Editorial Board

  • Prof. Éva ÁDÁM (Institute of Medical Microbiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Prof. Sebastian AMYES (Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.)
  • Dr. Katalin BURIÁN (Institute of Clinical Microbiology University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary; Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunobiology, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary.)
  • Dr. Orsolya DOBAY (Institute of Medical Microbiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Prof. Ildikó Rita DUNAY (Institute of Inflammation and Neurodegeneration, Medical Faculty, Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany; Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences (CBBS), Magdeburg, Germany)
  • Prof. Levente EMŐDY(Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary.)
  • Prof. Anna ERDEI (Department of Immunology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary, MTA-ELTE Immunology Research Group, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary.)
  • Prof. Éva Mária FENYŐ (Division of Medical Microbiology, University of Lund, Lund, Sweden)
  • Prof. László FODOR (Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, University of Veterinary Medicine, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Prof. József KÓNYA (Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary)
  • Prof. Yvette MÁNDI (Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunobiology, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary)
  • Prof. Károly MÁRIALIGETI (Department of Microbiology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Prof. János MINÁROVITS (Department of Oral Biology and Experimental Dental Research, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary)
  • Prof. Béla NAGY (Centre for Agricultural Research, Institute for Veterinary Medical Research, Budapest, Hungary.)
  • Prof. István NÁSZ (Institute of Medical Microbiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Prof. Kristóf NÉKÁM (Hospital of the Hospitaller Brothers in Buda, Budapest, Hungary.)
  • Dr. Eszter OSTORHÁZI (Institute of Medical Microbiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Prof. Rozália PUSZTAI (Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunobiology, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary)
  • Prof. Peter L. RÁDY (Department of Dermatology, University of Texas, Houston, Texas, USA)
  • Prof. Éva RAJNAVÖLGYI (Department of Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary)
  • Prof. Ferenc ROZGONYI (Institute of Laboratory Medicine, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Prof. Zsuzsanna SCHAFF (2nd Department of Pathology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Prof. Joseph G. SINKOVICS (The Cancer Institute, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tampa, Florida, USA)
  • Prof. Júlia SZEKERES (Department of Medical Biology, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary.)
  • Prof. Mária TAKÁCS (National Reference Laboratory for Viral Zoonoses, National Public Health Center, Budapest, Hungary.)
  • Prof. Edit URBÁN (Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary; Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary.)

 

Editorial Office:
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Editorial Correspondence:
Acta Microbiologica et Immunologica Hungarica
Institute of Medical Microbiology
Semmelweis University
P.O. Box 370
H-1445 Budapest, Hungary
Phone: + 36 1 459 1500 ext. 56101
Fax: (36 1) 210 2959
E-mail: amih@med.semmelweis-univ.hu

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  • Science Citation Index Expanded
2020  
Total Cites 662
WoS
Journal
Impact Factor
2,048
Rank by Immunology 145/162(Q4)
Impact Factor Microbiology 118/137 (Q4)
Impact Factor 1,904
without
Journal Self Cites
5 Year 0,671
Impact Factor
Journal  0,38
Citation Indicator  
Rank by Journal  Immunology 146/174 (Q4)
Citation Indicator  Microbiology 120/142 (Q4)
Citable 42
Items
Total 40
Articles
Total 2
Reviews
Scimago 28
H-index
Scimago 0,439
Journal Rank
Scimago Immunology and Microbiology (miscellaneous) Q4
Quartile Score Medicine (miscellaneous) Q3
Scopus 438/167=2,6
Scite Score  
Scopus General Immunology and Microbiology 31/45 (Q3)
Scite Score Rank  
Scopus 0,760
SNIP
Days from  225
sumbission
to acceptance
Days from  118
acceptance
to publication
Acceptance 19%
Rate

2019  
Total Cites
WoS
485
Impact Factor 1,086
Impact Factor
without
Journal Self Cites
0,864
5 Year
Impact Factor
1,233
Immediacy
Index
0,286
Citable
Items
42
Total
Articles
40
Total
Reviews
2
Cited
Half-Life
5,8
Citing
Half-Life
7,7
Eigenfactor
Score
0,00059
Article Influence
Score
0,246
% Articles
in
Citable Items
95,24
Normalized
Eigenfactor
0,07317
Average
IF
Percentile
7,690
Scimago
H-index
27
Scimago
Journal Rank
0,352
Scopus
Scite Score
320/161=2
Scopus
Scite Score Rank
General Immunology and Microbiology 35/45 (Q4)
Scopus
SNIP
0,492
Acceptance
Rate
16%

 

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Acta Microbiologica et Immunologica Hungarica
Language English
Size A4
Year of
Foundation
1954
Publication
Programme
2021 Volume 68
Volumes
per Year
1
Issues
per Year
4
Founder Magyar Tudományos Akadémia
Founder's
Address
H-1051 Budapest, Hungary, Széchenyi István tér 9.
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
Publisher's
Address
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
Responsible
Publisher
Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 1217-8950 (Print)
ISSN 1588-2640 (Online)

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