SARS-CoV-2 targets endothelial cells through the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor. The resulting endothelial injury induces widespread thrombosis and microangiopathy. Nevertheless, early specific markers of endothelial dysfunction and vascular redox status in COVID-19 patients are currently missing.
Observational study including ICU and non-ICU adult COVID-19 patients admitted in hospital for acute respiratory failure, compared with control subjects matched for cardiovascular risk factors similar to ICU COVID-19 patients, and ICU septic shock patients unrelated to COVID-19.
Early SARS-CoV-2 infection was associated with an imbalance between an exacerbated oxidative stress (plasma peroxides levels in ICU patients vs. controls: 1456.0 ± 400.2 vs 436 ± 272.1 mmol/L; P < 0.05) and a reduced nitric oxide bioavailability proportional to disease severity (5-α-nitrosyl-hemoglobin, HbNO in ICU patients vs. controls: 116.1 ± 62.1 vs. 163.3 ± 46.7 nmol/L; P < 0.05). HbNO levels correlated with oxygenation parameters (PaO/FiO ratio) in COVID-19 patients (R = 0.13; P < 0.05). Plasma levels of angiotensin II, aldosterone, renin or serum level of TREM-1 ruled out any hyper-activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system or leucocyte respiratory burst in ICU COVID-19 patients, contrary to septic patients.
Endothelial oxidative stress with ensuing decreased NO bioavailability appears as a likely pathogenic factor of endothelial dysfunction in ICU COVID-19 patients. A correlation between NO bioavailability and oxygenation parameters is observed in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. These results highlight an urgent need for oriented research leading to a better understanding of the specific endothelial oxidative stress that occurs during SARS-CoV-2.
Stated in the acknowledgments section.

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