COVID-19 and Thalassaemia in Iran
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has had and continues to have a significant medical, public health, social and economic impact on every society around the world. Some groups of chronic patients including thalassaemia and other haemoglobin disorders were considered from the beginning of the pandemic, as vulnerable and high risk ones with regards to a more severe clinical outcome of the infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). This is because patients with thalassaemia can present with many and multiple co-morbidities including diabetes, heart, liver, endocrine and other conditions mainly secondary to iron overload and consequent to ineffective or suboptimal medical care and/or adherence to chelation treatment in particular. Transfusion dependent patients with β-thalassaemia have been greatly affected across the world, including in Iran, a country geographically situated in the so called thalassaemia belt. Iran with about 20,000 patients with β-thalassaemia and quite successful disease specific prevention and management national programmes faced challenges similar to others. Blood shortages for example consequent to COVID-19 precaution measures taken in every country to contain the virus and the difficulties in accessing drugs including lifesaving ones (iron chelation medication) constitute major challenges. In Iran however, and despite the multiple difficulties as described above, SARS-CoV-2 had a rather small impact regarding infection rates as compared to the rest of the countries, albeit a higher mortality rate reaching 26.5% amongst COVID-19 diagnosed patients. More comprehensive data however from a bigger number of patients with thalassaemia across the world infected with SARS-CoV- 2 is necessary to draw any reliable conclusions as to the level of vulnerability to SARS-CoV-2 and importantly the clinical impact of this virus in these patients.
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