SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19, may not only damage key red blood cells, but also prevent the formation of new ones, says a new study.
In the study, published in the journal Archiv EuroMedica, researchers from Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) in Russia, along with their Japanese colleagues probed how Covid-19's impact on red blood cells called erythrocytes affects patients.
Erythrocytes are red blood cells which are responsible in the body for transport of the iron-rich protein haemoglobin carrying oxygen.
Loss of erythrocytes might cause damage to the brain neurons, blood vessels, and internals, considering they do not get enough oxygen.
In the most severe cases, multiple organ failure can occur, and without his/her own red blood cells, the patient starts to suffocate.
Artificial ventilation does not help in such a scenario as there is no one who transports oxygen within the body.
Effective therapy for such patients is to administer erythrocyte mass and vitamin B12, suggests the research.
Early breakdown of red blood cells is the initial reaction of the body to the SARS-COV-2 virus, which scales up gradually, said the study.
The patient can learn about the pathology by feeling the taste of iron. That occurs because haemoglobin released from erythrocytes in the bloodstream gets in saliva.
According to scientists, everyone who has low haemoglobin is at risk.
These are elderly people, patients with high blood pressure, people with obesity and diabetes mellitus, pregnant women, patients with primary and acquired immunodeficiency, with inhibition of hematopoietic function, HIV- and cancer patients.
"The virus enters the epithelium, where it multiplies, then enters the bloodstream and attacks targets, which can be both the internal epithelium (gastrointestinal tract, lungs, genitourinary system) and erythrocytes," explained Galina Reva, Professor at Far Eastern Federal University.
"Although most frequently we would see the pathology of the respiratory system, lungs, the virus needs epithelial cells only for reproduction.
"We believe the main target for the virus is the red marrow, where it damages the endothelium, the tissue, which normally regulates the migration of maturing cells into the blood," Reva said.
Conducting the investigation, the scientists analysed the results of their own studies of lung samples from 79 patients who died from Covid-19. In the control group there were 14 patients who died accidentally.