Background: Krebs von den Lungen 6 (KL-6) is a high-molecular-weight mucin-like glycoprotein, which is also known as MUC1. KL-6 is mainly produced by type 2 pneumocytes and bronchial epithelial cells, and, therefore, elevated circulating KL-6 levels may denote disorders of the alveolar epithelial lining. The objective of this study is to verify if KL-6 serum level might support ICU physicians in predicting mortality, risk stratifying and triaging severe COVID-19 patients. Methods: A retrospective cohort study, including all the COVID-19 patients who measured KL-6 serum values at least once during their ICU stay, was performed. The study sample, 122 patients, was divided in two groups, according to the median KL-6 value at ICU admission (median log-transformed KL-6 value: 6.73 U/ml; group A: KL-6 lower than the median and group B: KL-6 higher than the median). Results: One-hundred twenty-two ICU patients were included in this study. Mortality was higher in group B than in group A (80 versus 46%; p < 0.001); both linear and logistic multivariate analyses showed ratio of arterial partial pressure of oxygen to fraction of inspired oxygen (P/F) significantly and inversely related to KL-6 values. Conclusion: At ICU admission, KL-6 serum level was significantly higher in the most hypoxic COVID-19 patients and independently associated with ICU mortality.
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