De-stabilizing innate immunity in COVID-19: effects of its own positive feedback and erratic viraemia on the alternative pathway of complement
Complement provides powerful, fast responses in the human circulation to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) infection of the lower respiratory tract. COVID-19 effects were investigated in a revised human in silico Mass Action model of complement's alternative pathway (AP) responses. Bursts of newly circulating virions increased the fission of Complement protein C3 into C3a and C3b via stimulation of the lectin pathway or inhibited complement factor H. Viral reproduction sub-models incorporated smoothly exponential or step-wise exponential growth. Starting complement protein concentrations were drawn randomly from published normal male or female ranges and each infection model run for 10 days. C3 and factor B (FB) syntheses driven by Lectin Pathway stimulation led to declining plasma C3 and increasing FB concentrations. The C3-convertase concentration, a driver of viral elimination, could match viral growth over three orders of magnitude but near-complete exhaustion of circulating C3 was more prevalent with step-wise than with ‘smooth’ increases in viral stimulation. C3 exhaustion could be prolonged. Type 2 Diabetes and hypertension led to greatly increased peak C3-convertase concentrations, as did short-term variability of COVID-19 viraemia, pulmonary capillary clotting and secondary acidosis. Positive feedback in the AP greatly extends its response range at the expense of stability.