People with sickle cell disease, who have a history of severe pain episodes and coexisting organ conditions, have an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, a new study suggests. Sickle cell disease is the most common inherited red blood cell disorder in the United States. It affects about 100,000 people, most of them Black or Hispanic. The disease can cause severe pain, joint and organ damage and stroke.
“This study tells us that all individuals with sickle cell disease are not at equal levels of risk,” study author Dr. Lana Mucalo, of the Medical College of Wisconsin says. “Patients with a history of pain, as well as individuals with coexisting organ conditions, need to be even more careful to avoid COVID-19 infection than those without any co-morbidities.”
“This means individuals with sickle cell disease who come to the hospital with pain should also be tested for COVID-19,” Mucalo says.
Previous research has shown sickle cell patients with COVID-19 are at greater risk for hospitalization than Black individuals without the disease who are infected with COVID.
The new study draws data from SECURE-SCD, an international registry that collects information about COVID infections in people with sickle cell disease.
Researchers assessed reports on 750 children and adults submitted to the registry between March 2020 and March 2021. About half were children. Adults had a median age of 31.
A history of pain events was found to be a risk factor for hospitalization. Kids who had previously experienced more than two pain events requiring acute care were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19. They were more than three times likely to have severe COVID illness.
Adults with more than two prior acute care visits for pain were about two times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and to have severe COVID-19 illness.