Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Authors: Chua et al.

Link to paper:

Journal/ Pre-Print: medRxiv

Tags: Immunology/Immunity, Bioinformatics, Cell Biology, Clinical/ Diagnostics, Inflammation, Molecular Biology, Therapeutics

Research Highlights 

1. More severe COVID-19 patients have different immune cell enrichment in airways than moderate patients

2. Chemokines and pro-inflammatory cytokines more highly expressed in severe than moderate patients

3. Correlation between CTL-epithelial cell interaction and ACE2 expression


Samples were taken from the respiratory tract of patients with moderate or severe COVID-19, and single-cell RNAseq performed to compare the two groups. Critical patients had a depletion of basal cells and enrichment for neutrophils compared with moderate patients. Predicted intercellular interactions based on expression of receptor-ligand pairs were higher in severe than in moderate patient samples, with increased immune-epithelial cell interaction positively correlating with higher immune cell activation status. Chemokine and pro-inflammatory cytokine genes were significantly more expressed in severe patients. CTLs from moderate cases displayed a typical anti-viral transcriptional profile whereas CTLs from severe cases had higher cytotoxic potential but lower cytokine expression. 

Impact for SARS-CoV2/COVID19 research efforts

Understand the immune response to SARS-CoV2/COVID19

Understand the virology and/or cell biology of SARS-CoV2/COVID19

Clinical symptoms and pathogenesis of SARS-Cov2/COVID19

Treat of SARS-CoV2/COVID19 positive individuals

Study Type

· In silico study / bioinformatics study

· Patient Case study 

Strengths and limitations of the paper

Novelty: Comprehensive transcriptomics of immune and epithelial cells in COVID-19 patients

Standing in the field: In agreement with other recent studies showing hyperactivation of immune system in more severe cases

Appropriate statistics: Yes

Viral model used: patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection

Translatability: Suggests therapies to selectively block recruitment of certain immune cells might be beneficial

Main limitations: Small cohort (5 moderate patients and 9 critical patients); the authors make strong claims about their data and infer mechanisms beyond the scope of their results; predicted rather than actual intercellular interactions shown; correlations depicted as causal.