The study, published in the journal Critical Care, is part of an ongoing close collaboration between ICU academic clinicians Dr Akshay Shah and Dr Stuart McKechnie, and Professor Hal Drakesmith’s research group at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.
Changes in iron levels have been associated with worsening disease for other viral infections such as HIV and Hepatitis C, but this is the first study to find a similar link for COVID-19.
Iron is essential for the growth of pathogens, but also for the body’s own immune response. So during an infection, the immune system ‘sequesters’ iron to deprive pathogens. At the same time, the immune system’s T and B lymphocytes (white blood cells that are a key art of the body’s immune response) need iron to clear the infection.