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New Study from the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason Finds “COVID-19 Immune Landscape Is Dynamically and Reversibly Correlated with Disease Severity”

By February 5, 2021No Comments

Researchers at the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) have published findings today in The Journal of Clinical Investigation concluding that the selection of immune interventions for COVID-19 should be based on disease presentation and early disease trajectory due to the profound differences in the immune response in those with mild to moderate disease, and those with the most severe disease.

“There are lots of questions about how COVID-19 affects the immune system and why some people get sicker than others,” said BRI President Jane Buckner, MD, and lead principal investigator on the study. “While we still don’t have all of the answers, understanding how the immune system behaves differently in mild and severe disease can help us select treatment for people hospitalized with COVID-19 and improve outcomes.”

BRI researchers studied 59 blood samples from Virginia Mason Medical Center patients with acute COVID-19 infection to identify the biologic factors that contribute to disease severity— ultimately classifying three dominant clusters of immune response.

Hospitalized patients with moderate disease experienced a productive anti-viral response that resolved within two weeks, whereas patients with severe disease showed signs of an abnormal immune response that persisted for at least two weeks after hospital admission. Moderate disease patients showed brief changes in multiple immune cell types, while such changes were progressive and unresolved in severe COVID-19 patients. This suggests that the degree of inflammation, or persistence of virus, markedly changed the immune landscape over time in patients with severe as compared to moderate disease. Studying the patients throughout their hospitalization showed that the immune response changed over time and with respect to changes in clinical status and with treatment.

“Deciphering how to effectively regulate the immune system is critical,” said Buckner.

For more information on BRI and its research efforts, visit


About Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason

Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) works to advance the science that will predict, prevent, reverse and cure diseases of the immune system. BRI is committed to eliminating autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis, as well as immune system diseases such as allergies and asthma. An internationally recognized medical research institute, BRI accelerates discovery through laboratory breakthroughs in immunology that are then translated to clinical therapies. Visit or follow BRI’s Autoimmune Life BlogFacebookInstagramLinkedIn or Twitter to learn more.