Reduction of lymphocyte count at early stage elevates severity and death risk of COVID-19 patients: a hospital-based case-cohort study
Lin Fu 1,2
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Second Affiliated Hospital, Anhui Medical University, Hefei, Anhui Province, China
Department of Toxicology, Anhui Medical University, Hefei, Anhui Province, China
Union Hospital, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China
Submission date: 2020-05-31
Final revision date: 2020-07-17
Acceptance date: 2020-08-06
Online publication date: 2020-09-15
Several reports have noted that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) induced lymphopenia in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients. However, the clinical significance of lymphopenia remains unclear. The objective of this study was to analyze the association between lymphopenia at an early stage and the prognosis of COVID-19 patients.

Material and methods:
All 192 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 were enrolled. Demographic data and clinical characteristics were collected and patient’s prognosis was followed up.

On admission, 84 (43.8%) patients suffered from lymphopenia among COVID-19 patients. The count and percentage of lymphocytes on admission were lower among patients over 70 years old than those of younger patients. Multivariate logistic regression revealed that older age was a risk factor of lymphopenia. Of interest, chest CT score, a key marker of lung injury, was increased among COVID-19 patients with lymphopenia. By contrast, PaCO2, SpO2 and oxygenation index, several respiratory function markers, were decreased in COVID-19 patients with lymphopenia. Moreover, total bilirubin (TBIL) and direct bilirubin (DBIL), two markers of hepatic injury, creatinine and urea nitrogen, two indices of renal function, and creatine kinase, AST and LDH, three myocardial enzymes, were elevated in COVID-19 patients with lymphopenia. Among 84 COVID-19 patients with lymphopenia, 32.1% died. The fatality rate was obviously higher in COVID-19 patients with lymphopenia.

Older COVID-19 patients are more susceptible to lymphopenia. Multiple organ injuries were more serious in COVID-19 patients with lymphopenia. Lymphopenia at an early stage aggravates the severity and elevates the death risk of COVID-19 patients.