International journal of biological sciences;
Dysregulated immune response and abnormal repairment could cause secondary pulmonary fibrosis of varying severity in COVID-19, especially for the elders. The Krebs Von den Lungen-6 (KL-6) as a sensitive marker reflects the degree of fibrosis and this study will focus on analyzing the evaluative efficacy and predictive role of KL-6 in COVID-19 secondary pulmonary fibrosis. The study lasted more than three months and included total 289 COVID-19 patients who were divided into moderate (n=226) and severe groups (n=63) according to the severity of illness. Clinical information such as inflammation indicators, radiological results and lung function tests were collected. The time points of nucleic acid test were also recorded. Furthermore, based on Chest radiology detection, it was identified that 80 (27.7%) patients developed reversible pulmonary fibrosis and 34 (11.8%) patients developed irreversible pulmonary fibrosis. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis shows that KL-6 could diagnose the severity of COVID-19 (AUC=0.862) and predict the occurrence of pulmonary fibrosis (AUC = 0.741) and irreversible pulmonary fibrosis (AUC=0.872). Importantly, the cross-correlation analysis demonstrates that KL-6 rises earlier than the development of lung radiology fibrosis, thus also illuminating the predictive function of KL-6. We set specific values (505U/mL and 674U/mL) for KL-6 in order to assess the risk of pulmonary fibrosis after SARS-CoV-2 infection. The survival curves for days in hospital show that the higher the KL-6 levels, the longer the hospital stay (P<0.0001). In conclusion, KL-6 could be used as an important predictor to evaluate the secondary pulmonary fibrosis degree for COVID-19.