IL-13 is a driver of COVID-19 severity

Alexandra N. Donlan, Tara E. Sutherland, Chelsea Marie, Saskia Preissner, Benjamin T. Bradley, Rebecca M. Carpenter, Jeffrey M. Sturek, Jennie Z. Ma, G. Brett Moreau, Jeffrey R. Donowitz, Gregory A. Buck, Myrna G. Serrano, Stacey L. Burgess, Mayuresh M. Abhyankar, Cameron Mura, Philip E. Bourne, Robert Preissner, Mary K. Young, Genevieve R. Lyons, Johanna J. LoombaSarah J. Ratcliffe, Melinda D. Poulter, Amy J. Mathers, Anthony J. Day, Barbara J. Mann, Judith E. Allen, William A. Petri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Immune dysregulation is characteristic of the more severe stages of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Understanding the mechanisms by which the immune system contributes to COVID-19 severity may open new avenues to treatment. Here, we report that elevated IL-13 was associated with the need for mechanical ventilation in 2 independent patient cohorts. In addition, patients who acquired COVID-19 while prescribed Dupilumab, a mAb that blocks IL-13 and IL-4 signaling, had less severe disease. In SARS-CoV-2-infected mice, IL-13 neutralization reduced death and disease severity without affecting viral load, demonstrating an immunopathogenic role for this cytokine. Following anti-IL-13 treatment in infected mice, hyaluronan synthase 1 (Has1) was the most downregulated gene, and accumulation of the hyaluronan (HA) polysaccharide was decreased in the lung. In patients with COVID-19, HA was increased in the lungs and plasma. Blockade of the HA receptor, CD44, reduced mortality in infected mice, supporting the importance of HA as a pathogenic mediator. Finally, HA was directly induced in the lungs of mice by administration of IL-13, indicating a new role for IL-13 in lung disease. Understanding the role of IL-13 and HA has important implications for therapy of COVID-19 and, potentially, other pulmonary diseases. IL-13 levels were elevated in patients with severe COVID-19. In a mouse model of the disease, IL-13 neutralization reduced the disease and decreased lung HA deposition. Administration of IL-13-induced HA in the lung. Blockade of the HA receptor CD44 prevented mortality, highlighting a potentially novel mechanism for IL-13-mediated HA synthesis in pulmonary pathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere150107
JournalJCI insight
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 9 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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