People with beta thalassemia heterozygosity are at higher risk of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 and should be recognized as a high-risk group, according to research in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

About 1.5% of the world’s population carries the beta-thalassemia trait. The study authors sought to determine whether beta-thalassemia heterozygosity affects an individual’s susceptibility to COVID-19.

The study included 255 unvaccinated people from Greece who had a positive COVID-19 PCR test. Participant ages ranged from 20 to 92 years.

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In multivariate analysis, male sex (P =.023), increased age (P <.001), and beta thalassemia heterozygosity (P =.002) were independent risk facts for having severe and critical COVID-19 symptoms (based on dependence on oxygen support). Men were 1.81 times more likely to have severe symptoms, and people with beta thalassemia heterozygosity were 2.89 times more likely to have severe and critical symptoms.

According to the analysis, male sex, age, beta thalassemia heterozygosity, atrial fibrillation, respiratory disease, coronary disease, and hypertension were associated with mortality from COVID-19. Beta thalassemia heterozygosity had no effect on the risk for ICU admission.

Beta thalassemia carriers also had longer hospital stays on average than noncarriers.

Based on these results, the authors suggested that beta thalassemia carriers be identified early, as they are more susceptible to severe COVID-19.


Sotiriou S, Samara AA, Vamvakopoulou D, et al. Susceptibility of β-thalassemia heterozygotes to COVID-19. J Clin Med. 2021;10(16):3645. doi:10.3390/jcm10163645