How COVID-19 uniquely affects sickle cell patients

We all know that COVID-19 affects people differently depending on their preexisting health condition. Now researchers are saying that those with sickle cell disease may be at an even higher risk of not only contracting the virus but serious complications and even death.

This comes from the results of two studies presented at the ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition last month.

Lana Mucalo, MD, postdoctoral fellow at Medical College of Wisconsin, and her team wrote in their study’s findings that sickle cell patients faced 6.2 times the risk for COVID-19-related mortality compared with the general Black population. 

Mucalo said there are several different factors that came into play here. 

“Patients with sickle cell disease are more likely to have a high prevalence of the various comorbidities that can put individuals at high risk [for] severe illness and death,” she said. “Also, previous studies show that [patients with sickle cell disease] have worse outcomes due to influenza infection compared with the general population, so respiratory viral infections, potentially COVID-19 too, are a significant source of morbidity and mortality for them.”

Ashima Singh, MS, Ph.D., research scientist in the department of pediatrics at Medical College of Wisconsin, and colleagues concluded that patients with sickle cell disease and COVID-19 are more likely to be hospitalized with pneumonia and pain than Black individuals with COVID-19 but without sickle cell disease. 

Of course, patients with preexisting conditions are known to have more dyer outcomes from COVID-19 diagnoses, but these studies made the link between that and sickle cell patients. 

Also, the researchers pointed out that COVID-19 has been shown to disproportionately