Severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is characterized by the intense formation of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), leading to the occlusion of microvessels, as shown in pulmonary samples. The occurrence of ST-elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI) is a serious cardiac manifestation of COVID-19; the intrinsic mechanism of coronary thrombosis appears to still be unknown.
Objective of the paper, published on JAMA Cardiology, is to determine the role of NETs in coronary thrombosis in patients with COVID-19.
This was a consecutive series of patients with COVID-19 at an academic tertiary hospital in Madrid, Spain, who underwent primary coronary interventions for STEMI in which coronary aspirates were obtained in the catheterization laboratory using a thrombus aspiration device. Patients with COVID-19 who experienced a STEMI between March 23 and April 11, 2020, from whom coronary thrombus samples were aspirated during primary coronary intervention, were included in the analysis. These patients were compared with a series conducted from July 2015 to December 2015 of patients with STEMI.
The presence and quantity of NETs in coronary aspirates from patients with STEMI and COVID-19. The method for the analysis of NETs in paraffin-embedded coronary thrombi was based on the use of confocal microscopy technology and image analysis for the colocalization of myeloperoxidase-DNA complexes and citrullinated histone H3. Immunohistochemical analysis of thrombi was also performed. Clinical and angiographic variables were prospectively collected.
Five patients with COVID-19 were included (4 men [80%]; mean [SD] age, 62  years); the comparison group included 50 patients (44 males [88%]; mean [SD] age, 58  years). NETs were detected in the samples of all 5 patients with COVID-19, and the median density of NETs was 61% (95% CI, 43%-91%). In the historical series of patients with STEMI, NETs were found in 34 of 50 thrombi (68%), and the median NET density was 19% (95% CI, 13%-22%; P < .001). All thrombi from patients with COVID-19 were composed of fibrin and polymorphonuclear cells. None of them showed fragments of atherosclerotic plaque or iron deposits indicative of previous episodes of plaque rupture.
In this small case series of patients with COVID-19 and myocardial infarction, NETs seem to play a major role in the pathogenesis of STEMI in COVID-19 disease. Our findings support the idea that targeting intravascular NETs might be a relevant goal of treatment and a feasible way to prevent coronary thrombosis in patients with severe COVID-19 disease.