Changes in HDL cholesterol, particles, and function associate with pediatric COVID-19 severity

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Frontiers in cardiovascular medicine






HDL function; HDL subspecies; HDL-cholesterol; NMR lipoprotein analysis; lipoprotein Z; pediatric COVID-19 severity


Background: Myriad roles for high-density lipoprotein (HDL) beyond atheroprotection include immunologic functions implicated in the severity of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) in adults. We explored whether there is an association between HDL and COVID-19 severity in youth. Methods: A pediatric cohort ( = 102), who tested positive for COVID-19 across a range of disease manifestations from mild or no symptoms, to acute severe symptoms, to the multisystem inflammatory syndrome of children (MIS-C) was identified. Clinical data were collected from the medical record and reserve plasma aliquots were assessed for lipoproteins by NMR spectroscopy and assayed for HDL functional cholesterol efflux capacity (CEC). Findings were compared by COVID-19 status and symptom severity. Lipoprotein, NMR spectroscopy and CEC data were compared with 30 outpatient COVID negative children. Results: Decreasing HDL cholesterol (HDL-c), apolipoprotein AI (ApoA-I), total, large and small HDL particles and HDL CEC showed a strong and direct linear dose-response relationship with increasing severity of COVID-19 symptoms. Youth with mild or no symptoms closely resembled the uninfected. An atypical lipoprotein that arises in the presence of severe hepatic inflammation, lipoprotein Z (LP-Z), was absent in COVID-19 negative controls but identified more often in youth with the most severe infections and the lowest HDL parameters. The relationship between HDL CEC and symptom severity and ApoA-I remained significant in a multiply adjusted model that also incorporated age, race/ethnicity, the presence of LP-Z and of GlycA, a composite biomarker reflecting multiple acute phase proteins. Conclusion: HDL parameters, especially HDL function, may help identify youth at risk of more severe consequences of COVID-19 and other novel infectious pathogens.