Study Explores Outcomes of Patients with MDS and COVID-19 in Pandemic Epicenter

Scientists are just beginning to explore the effects of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) on specific populations of patients with chronic disease. At the 62nd ASH Annual Meeting & Exposition, a group of researchers presented a study of COVID-19 in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

The researchers performed a prospective case series study of all patients seen in an MDS clinic at a large academic medical center in New York City. The researchers included patients seen between March 12, 2020, and May 7, 2020. Lead author Jonathan Feld, MD, of the Tisch Cancer Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, N.Y., and coauthors said their study is “the first reported large case series regarding the risks of developing COVID-19 and its effects at an MDS clinic in the initial U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.”

Overall, the clinic saw 85 patients, and 23 (27%) tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 11 (48%) were hospitalized and four (17%) were asymptomatic. Nine of the 23 COVID-19-positive patients died (39.1%, or 10.6% of the overall cohort). Bust most recovered and resumed MDS therapy.

The presenters said the rate they found compares to a previously published mortality rate of 16% in a broader population of patients with cancer and COVID-19. They added that the higher mortality rate they found in MDS is likely associated with the patients’ comorbidities (including cardiac disease, hypertension, diabetes, and dementia) and older age (median, 75 years).

The most common symptoms in patients with MDS and COVID-19 were:

  • Upper respiratory symptoms (n=15)
  • Fever (n=14)
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia (n=4)

They received the following treatments most often:

  • Hydroxychloroquine (n=4)
  • Steroids (n=3)
  • Azithromycin (n=2)

Among other noteworthy findings, they said, COVID-19 antibodies were found in many the patients tested, showing that patients with MDS “can mount a humoral response. … However, protecting MDS patients from COVID-19 infection must be a primary overall therapeutic approach until there are more effective COVID-19 treatment strategies,” the researchers stressed.