Infection with the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the associated coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) might affect red blood cells (RBC); possibly altering oxygen supply. However, investigations of cell morphology and RBC rheological parameters during a mild disease course are lacking and thus, the aim of the study. Fifty individuals with mild COVID-19 disease process were tested after the acute phase of SARS-CoV-2 infection (37males/13 females), and the data were compared to n = 42 healthy controls (30 males/12 females). Analysis of venous blood samples, taken at rest, revealed a higher percentage of permanently elongated RBC and membrane extensions in COVID-19 patients. Haematological parameters and haemoglobin concentration, MCH and MCV in particular, were highly altered in COVID-19. RBC deformability and deformability under an osmotic gradient were significantly reduced in COVID-19 patients. Higher RBC-NOS activation was not capable to at least in part counteract these reductions. Impaired RBC deformability might also be related to morphological changes and/or increased oxidative state. RBC aggregation index remained unaffected. However, higher shear rates were necessary to balance the aggregation-disaggregation in COVID-19 patients which might be, among others, related to morphological changes. The data suggest prolonged modifications of the RBC system even during a mild COVID-19 disease course.
Research areas and keywords
- Erythrocyte Deformability/physiology