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Am J Hematol ; 97(11): 1404-1412, 2022 Nov.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1976682


Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) can be considered as a human pathological model of inflammation combined with hypoxia. In this setting, both erythropoiesis and iron metabolism appear to be profoundly affected by inflammatory and hypoxic stimuli, which act in the opposite direction on hepcidin regulation. The impact of low blood oxygen levels on erythropoiesis and iron metabolism in the context of human hypoxic disease (e.g., pneumonia) has not been fully elucidated. This multicentric observational study was aimed at investigating the prevalence of anemia, the alterations of iron homeostasis, and the relationship between inflammation, hypoxia, and erythropoietic parameters in a cohort of 481 COVID-19 patients admitted both to medical wards and intensive care units (ICU). Data were collected on admission and after 7 days of hospitalization. On admission, nearly half of the patients were anemic, displaying mild-to-moderate anemia. We found that hepcidin levels were increased during the whole period of observation. The patients with a higher burden of disease (i.e., those who needed intensive care treatment or had a more severe degree of hypoxia) showed lower hepcidin levels, despite having a more marked inflammatory pattern. Erythropoietin (EPO) levels were also lower in the ICU group on admission. After 7 days, EPO levels rose in the ICU group while they remained stable in the non-ICU group, reflecting that the initial hypoxic stimulus was stronger in the first group. These findings strengthen the hypothesis that, at least in the early phases, hypoxia-driven stimuli prevail over inflammation in the regulation of hepcidin and, finally, of erythropoiesis.

Anemia , COVID-19 , Erythropoietin , Erythropoiesis/physiology , Hepcidins , Humans , Hypoxia , Inflammation , Iron