Probing SARS-CoV-2-positive plasma to identify potential factors correlating with mild COVID-19 in Ghana, West Africa
Kesego Tapela, Fatima O. Oyawoye, Charles Ochieng’ Olwal, Precious C. Opurum, Jones Amo Amponsah, Kekeli Aku Lumor Segbedzi, Becky Tetteh, Frederick Kumi-Ansah, Joe K. Mutungi, Evangeline Obodai, Emmanuella Amoako, Seth Agyemang, Nicaise Tuikue Ndam, William Kwabena Ampofo, Julian C. Rayner, Gordon A. Awandare, Lily Paemka, Yaw Bediako & Peter Kojo Quashie
West Africa has recorded a relatively higher proportion of asymptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases than the rest of the world, and West Africa-specific host factors could play a role in this discrepancy. Here, we assessed the association between COVID-19 severity among Ghanaians with their immune profiles and ABO blood groups.
Plasma samples were obtained from Ghanaians PCR-confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-positive individuals. The participants were categorized into symptomatic and asymptomatic cases. Cytokine profiling and antibody quantification were performed using Luminex™ multiplex assay whereas antigen-driven agglutination assay was used to assess the ABO blood groups. Immune profile levels between symptomatic and asymptomatic groups were compared using the two-tailed Mann-Whitney U test. Multiple comparisons of cytokine levels among and between days were tested using Kruskal-Wallis with Dunn’s post hoc test. Correlations within ABO blood grouping (O’s and non-O’s) and between cytokines were determined using Spearman correlations. Logistic regression analysis was performed to assess the association of various cytokines with asymptomatic phenotype.
There was a trend linking blood group O to reduced disease severity, but this association was not statistically significant. Generally, symptomatic patients displayed significantly (p < 0.05) higher cytokine levels compared to asymptomatic cases with exception of Eotaxin, which was positively associated with asymptomatic cases. There were also significant (p < 0.05) associations between other immune markers (IL-6, IL-8 and IL-1Ra) and disease severity. Cytokines’ clustering patterns differ between symptomatic and asymptomatic cases. We observed a steady decrease in the concentration of most cytokines over time, while anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels were stable for at least a month, regardless of the COVID-19 status.
The findings suggest that genetic background and pre-existing immune response patterns may in part shape the nature of the symptomatic response against COVID-19 in a West African population. This study offers clear directions to be explored further in larger studies.
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