Ferritin - from iron, through inflammation and autoimmunity, to COVID-19.
Journal of autoimmunity. 2022;:102778
While it took decades to arrive to a conclusion that ferritin is more than an indicator of iron storage level, it took a short period of time through the COVID-19 pandemic to wonder what the reason behind high levels of ferritin in patients with severe COVID-19 might be. Unsurprisingly, acute phase reactant was not a satisfactory explanation. Moreover, the behavior of ferritin in patients with severe COVID-19 and the subsequent high mortality rates in patients with high ferritin levels necessitated further investigations to understand the role of ferritin in the diseases. Ferritin was initially described to accompany various acute infections, both viral and bacterial, indicating an acute response to inflammation. However, with the introduction of the hyperferritinemic syndrome connecting four severe pathological conditions such as adult-onset Still's disease, macrophage activation syndrome, catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome, and septic shock added another aspect of ferritin where it could have a pathogenetic role rather than an extremely elevated protein only. In fact, suggesting that COVID-19 is a new member in the spectrum of hyperferritinemic syndrome besides the four mentioned conditions could hopefully direct further search on the pathogenetic role of ferritin. Doubtlessly, improving our understanding of those aspects of ferritin would enormously contribute to better coping with severe diseases in terms of treatment and prevention of complications. The origin, history, importance, and the advances of searching the role of ferritin in various pathological and clinical processes are presented hereby in our article. In addition, the implications of ferritin in COVID-19 are addressed.
Serum ferritin levels in inflammation: a retrospective comparative analysis between COVID-19 and emergency surgical non-COVID-19 patients.
World journal of emergency surgery : WJES. 2021;(1):9
BACKGROUND SARS-CoV-2 infection has spread worldwide, and the pathogenic mechanism is still under investigation. The presence of a huge inflammatory response, defined as "cytokine storm," is being studied in order to understand what might be the prognostic factors implicated in the progression of the infection, with ferritin being one of such markers. The role of ferritin as a marker of inflammation is already known, and whether it changes differently between COVID and non-COVID patients still remains unclear. The aim of this retrospective analysis is to understand whether the inflammatory process in these two types is different. METHODS In this retrospective analysis, we compared 17 patients affected by SARS-CoV-2, who had been admitted between February and April 2020 (group A) along with 30 patients admitted for acute surgical disease with SARS-CoV-2 negative swab (group B). A further subgroup of Covid negative patients with leukocytosis was compared to group A. RESULTS In group A, the median (interquartile range) serum ferritin was 674 (1284) ng/mL, and it was double the cutoff (300 ng/mL) in 9 out of 17 (52%). The median (IQR) value of ferritin level in the total blood samples of group B was 231, and in the subgroup with leucocytosis, 149 (145). Group A showed a significantly higher ferritin median level compared to the entire group B (two-tailed Mann-Whitney test, p < 0.0001) as well as to the subgroup with leucocytosis (p < 0.0014). CONCLUSIONS The role of iron metabolism appears to be directly involved in COVID infection. On the other hand, in the acute inflammation of patients admitted for surgery, and probably in other common phlogistic processes, iron modifications appear to be self-limited. However, our finding suggests the use of ferritin as a marker for COVID infection.
COVID-19 as part of the hyperferritinemic syndromes: the role of iron depletion therapy.
Immunologic research. 2020;(4):213-224
SARS-CoV-2 infection is characterized by a protean clinical picture that can range from asymptomatic patients to life-threatening conditions. Severe COVID-19 patients often display a severe pulmonary involvement and develop neutrophilia, lymphopenia, and strikingly elevated levels of IL-6. There is an over-exuberant cytokine release with hyperferritinemia leading to the idea that COVID-19 is part of the hyperferritinemic syndrome spectrum. Indeed, very high levels of ferritin can occur in other diseases including hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, macrophage activation syndrome, adult-onset Still's disease, catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome and septic shock. Numerous studies have demonstrated the immunomodulatory effects of ferritin and its association with mortality and sustained inflammatory process. High levels of free iron are harmful in tissues, especially through the redox damage that can lead to fibrosis. Iron chelation represents a pillar in the treatment of iron overload. In addition, it was proven to have an anti-viral and anti-fibrotic activity. Herein, we analyse the pathogenic role of ferritin and iron during SARS-CoV-2 infection and propose iron depletion therapy as a novel therapeutic approach in the COVID-19 pandemic.