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Systemic neutrophil degranulation and emergency granulopoiesis in patients with Clostridioides difficile infection.

Anaerobe 2024 March 20
OBJECTIVES: Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) is characterized by neutrophilia in blood, with a high leukocyte count accompanying severe infection. In this study, we characterized peripheral blood neutrophil activation and maturity in CDI by (i) developing a method to phenotype stored neutrophils for disease-related developmental alterations and (ii) assessing neutrophil-associated biomarkers.

METHODS: We stored fixed leukocytes from blood collected within 24 h of diagnosis from a cohort of hospitalized patients with acute CDI. Additional study cohorts included recurrent CDI patients at time of and two months after FMT therapy and a control healthy cohort. We assessed levels of neutrophil surface markers CD66b, CD11b, CD16 and CD10 by flow cytometry. Plasma neutrophil elastase and lipocalin-2 were measured using ELISA, while G-CSF, GM-CSF and cytokines were measured using O-link proteomic technology.

RESULTS: CD66b+ neutrophil abundance assessed by flow cytometry correlated well with complete blood counts, establishing that neutrophils in stored blood are sufficiently well-preserved for phenotyping by flow cytometry. Neutrophil abundance was significantly increased in CDI patients compared to healthy controls. Emergency granulopoiesis in acute CDI patients was evidenced by lower neutrophil surface expression of CD10, CD11b and CD16. CD10+ staining of neutrophils started to recover within 3-7 days of CDI treatment. Neutrophil activation and degranulation were higher in acute CDI as assessed by plasma neutrophil elastase and lipocalin-2. Biomarker levels in immunocompetent subjects were associated with recurrence and fatal outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: Neutrophil activation and emergency granulopoiesis characterize the early immune response in acute CDI, with plasma degranulation biomarkers predictive of disease severity.

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