Although numerous patient-specific co-factors have been shown to be associated with worse outcomes in COVID-19, the prognostic value of thalassaemic syndromes in COVID-19 patients remains poorly understood. We studied the outcomes of 137 COVID-19 patients with a history of transfusion-dependent thalassaemia (TDT) and transfusion independent thalassaemia (TIT) extracted from a large international cohort and compared them with the outcomes from a matched cohort of COVID-19 patients with no history of thalassaemia. The mean age of thalassaemia patients included in our study was 41 +/- 16 years (48.9% male). Almost 81% of these patients suffered from TDT requiring blood transfusions on a regular basis. 38.7% of patients were blood group O. Cardiac iron overload was documented in 6.8% of study patients, whereas liver iron overload was documented in 35% of study patients. 40% of thalassaemia patients had a history of splenectomy. 27.7% of study patients required hospitalization due to COVID-19 infection. Amongst the hospitalized patients, one patient died (0.7%) and one patient required intubation. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) was required in almost 5% of study patients. After adjustment for age-, sex- and other known risk factors (cardiac disease, kidney disease and pulmonary disease), the rate of in-hospital complications (supplemental oxygen use, admission to an intensive care unit for CPAP therapy or intubation) and all-cause mortality was significantly lower in the thalassaemia group compared to the matched cohort with no history of thalassaemia. Amongst thalassaemia patients in general, the TIT group exhibited a higher rate of hospitalization compared to the TDT group (p = 0.001). In addition, the rate of complications such as acute kidney injury and need for supplemental oxygen was significantly higher in the TIT group compared to the TDT group. In the multivariable logistic regression analysis, age and history of heart or kidney disease were all found to be independent risk factors for increased in-hospital, all-cause mortality, whereas the presence of thalassaemia (either TDT or TIT) was found to be independently associated with reduced all-cause mortality. The presence of thalassaemia in COVID-19 patients was independently associated with lower in-hospital, all-cause mortality and few in-hospital complications in our study. The pathophysiology of this is unclear and needs to be studied in vitro and in animal models.
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