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Impact of the immune profiles of hypertensive patients with and without obesity on COVID-19 severity.

BACKGROUND: Comorbidities such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes are associated with COVID-19 development and severity, probably due to immune dysregulation; however, the mechanisms underlying these associations are not clear. The immune signatures of hypertensive patients with obesity with COVID-19 may provide new insight into the mechanisms of immune dysregulation and progression to severe disease in these patients.

METHODS: Hypertensive patients were selected prospectively from a multicenter registry of adults hospitalized with COVID-19 and stratified according to obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m²). Clinical data including baseline characteristics, complications, treatment, and 46 immune markers were compared between groups. Logistic regression was performed to identify variables associated with the risk of COVID-19 progression in each group.

RESULTS: The sample comprised 213 patients (89 with and 124 without obesity). The clinical profiles of patients with and without obesity differed, suggesting potential interactions with COVID-19 severity. Relative to patients without obesity, patients with obesity were younger and fewer had cardiac disease and myocardial injury. Patients with obesity had higher EGF, GCSF, GMCSF, interleukin (IL)-1ra, IL-5, IL-7, IL-8, IL-15, IL-1β, MCP 1, and VEGF levels, total lymphocyte counts, and CD8+ CD38+ mean fluorescence intensity (MFI), and lower NK-NKG2A MFI and percentage of CD8+ CD38+ T cells. Significant correlations between cytokine and immune cell expression were observed in both groups. Five variables best predicted progression to severe COVID-19 in patients with obesity: diabetes, the EGF, IL-10, and IL-13 levels, and the percentage of CD8+ HLA-DR+ CD38+ cells. Three variables were predictive for patients without obesity: myocardial injury and the percentages of B lymphocytes and HLA-DR+ CD38+ cells.

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that clinical and immune variables and obesity interact synergistically to increase the COVID-19 progression risk. The immune signatures of hypertensive patients with and without obesity severe COVID-19 highlight differences in immune dysregulation mechanisms, with potential therapeutic applications.

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