Coronavirus Damages Red Blood Cell Membranes

By Reuters Staff

November 03, 2020

(Reuters) - The new coronavirus damages the membranes of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, contributing to the hypoxemia common in COVID-19, researchers have found.

Studying blood samples from COVID-19 patients and healthy individuals, researchers found the virus did not appear to affect red cells' ability to load and offload oxygen. But patients had "clear damage" to red cell membranes, in particular to an abundant membrane protein responsible for helping the cell survive injuries, according to a report in Journal of Proteome Research.

As a result, patients' red cells might be more vulnerable to oxidative stress and other injury, coauthor Angelo D'Alessandro of the University of Colorado Denver said in an email.

Red cells circulate for up to 120 days and they cannot synthesize new components to replace the damaged parts. This might help explain why some COVID-19 symptoms can last for months, D'Alessandro said.

SOURCE: Journal of Proteome Research, online October 26, 2020.