Biomed Res Int. 2020 Sep 23;2020:2854186. doi: 10.1155/2020/2854186. eCollection 2020.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the role of short-term low-dose glucocorticoids in mild COVID-19 patients.
METHODS: We conducted a retrospective, cross-sectional, single-center study in Kunming, China. A total of 33 mild COVID-19 cases were divided into two treatment groups (with and without glucocorticoids, methylprednisolone, were used in this setting), and the absolute value of peripheral blood lymphocyte count; CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ T cell counts; and the time to achieve negative transformation of a nucleic acid pharyngeal swab were recorded. Peripheral blood lymphocyte and T cell counts were compared between the treatment group and 25 healthy individuals. At the point of time when there was a 50% accumulation conversion rate (positive to negative nucleic acid on pharyngeal swab), and the nucleic acid turned negative in half of the patients in two groups, the peripheral blood lymphocyte and T cell counts were compared between treatment groups.
RESULTS: The mean cumulative time for the 50% negative conversion rate of the nucleic acid in the pharyngeal swab was 17.7 ± 5.1 days and 13.9 ± 5.4 days in the glucocorticoid group and the nonglucocorticoid group, respectively. The absolute peripheral blood lymphocyte count and the T cell subset count in the glucocorticoid group were lower than those in the nonglucocorticoid group. When the nucleic acid turned negative in half of the patients, the absolute value of peripheral blood lymphocyte count and CD4+ T cells of the glucocorticoid group and the nonglucocorticoid group was not significantly different; the CD3+ and CD8+ T cells in the glucocorticoid group were lower than those in the nonglucocorticoid group. The absolute peripheral blood lymphocyte count, CD3+ T cells, and CD4+ T cells in the glucocorticoid group were lower than those of the healthy group during the whole disease period, and CD8+ T cells returned to normal at 19-21 days of the disease period. There was no significant difference between the nonglucocorticoid group and the healthy group for absolute peripheral blood lymphocyte and CD8+ T cells; moreover, CD3+ T cells and CD4+ T cells were lower in the nonglucocorticoid group than those in the healthy group from the day of admission to the 18th day and returned to normal at the period of 19-21 days. The absolute peripheral lymphocyte count (P = 0.048, effect size d = 0.727) and T cell subset count (CD3: P = 0.042, effect size d = 0.655; CD4: P < 0.01, effect size d = 0.599; and CD8: P = 0.034, effect size d = 0.550) in the nonglucocorticoid group were higher than those in the glucocorticoid group, and the difference between the groups was statistically significant.
CONCLUSIONS: This study found that the use of short-term, low-dose glucocorticoids does not negatively influence the clinical outcome, without affecting the final clearance of viral nucleic acid in mild COVID-19 patients.