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Previous case reports have described patients with COVID-19-associated autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), and cold agglutinin disease (CAD) which is characterized by a positive direct antiglobulin (DAT) or "Coombs" test, yet the mechanism is not well understood. To investigate the significance of Coombs test reactivity among COVID-19 patients, we conducted a retrospective study on hospitalized COVID-19 patients treated at NMC Royal Hospital between 15 April and 30 May 2020. There were 27 (20%) patients in the Coombs-positive group and 108 (80%) in the Coombs-negative group. The cold agglutinin titer was examined in 22 patients due to symptoms suggestive of cold agglutinin disease, and all tested negative. We demonstrated a significant association with reactive Coombs test results in univariate analysis through clinical findings such as ICU admission rate, the severity of COVID-19, and several laboratory findings such as CRP, D-dimer, and hemoglobin levels lactate dehydrogenase, and RDW-CV. However, only hemoglobin levels and disease severity had a statistically significant association in multivariate analysis. A possible explanation of COVID-19-associated positive Coombs is cytokine storm-induced hyperinflammation, complement system activation, alterations of RBCs, binding of SARS-CoV-2 proteins to hemoglobin or its metabolites, and autoantibody production. Coombs-positive patients were tested for hemolysis using indirect bilirubin, consumed haptoglobin, and/or peripheral smear that ruled out any evidence of hemolysis. Understanding this etiology sheds new light on RBC involvement as a pathophysiological target for SARS-CoV-2 by interfering with their function; consequently, therapies capable of restoring RBC function, such as erythrocytapheresis, could be repurposed for the treatment of worsening severe and critical COVID-19. Copyright © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier GmbH.. All rights reserved.


Wael Hafez, Mohamad Azzam Ziade, Arun Arya, Husam Saleh, Ahmed Abdelrahman. The significance of antiglobulin (Coombs) test reactivity in patients with COVID-19. Immunobiology. 2022 Jul;227(4):152240

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PMID: 35839729

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