G6PD deficiency and severity of COVID19 pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome: tip of the iceberg?

Jihad G. Youssef, Faisal Zahiruddin, George Youssef, Sriram Padmanabhan, Joe Ensor, Sai Ravi Pingali, Youli Zu, Sandeep Sahay, Swaminathan P. Iyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Abstract: The severe pneumonia caused by the human coronavirus (hCoV)-SARS-CoV-2 has inflicted heavy casualties, especially among the elderly and those with co-morbid illnesses irrespective of their age. The high mortality in African-Americans and males, in general, raises the concern for a possible X-linked mediated process that could affect the viral pathogenesis and the immune system. We hypothesized that G6PD, the most common X-linked enzyme deficiency, associated with redox status, may have a role in severity of pneumonia. Retrospective chart review was performed in hospitalized patients with COVID19 pneumonia needing supplemental oxygen. A total of 17 patients were evaluated: six with G6PD deficiency (G6PDd) and 11 with normal levels. The two groups (normal and G6PDd) were comparable in terms of age, sex, co-morbidities, and laboratory parameters—LDH, IL-6, CRP, and ferritin, respectively. Thirteen patients needed ventilatory support ; 8 in the normal group and 5 in the G6PDd group (72% vs.83%). The main differences indicating increasing severity in normal vs. G6PDd groups included G6PD levels (12.2 vs. 5.6, P = 0.0002), PaO2/FiO2 ratio (159 vs. 108, P = 0.05), days on mechanical ventilation (10.25 vs. 21 days P = 0.04), hemoglobin level (10 vs. 8.1 P = 0.03), and hematocrit (32 vs. 26 P = 0.015). Only one patient with G6PDd died; 16 were discharged home. Our clinical series ascribes a possible biological role for G6PDd in SARS-CoV2 viral proliferation. It is imperative that further studies are performed to understand the interplay between the viral and host factors in G6PDd that may lead to disparity in outcomes. Key Points: • COVID19 studies show higher mortality in men, due to severe pneumonia and ARDS, indicating possible X-linked mediated differences • G6PD, the most common X-linked enzymopathy, highly prevalent in African Americans and Italians, maintains redox homeostasis. • Preclinical studies using G6PD deficient (G6PDd) cells infected with human coronavirus (hCoV), show impaired cellular responses, viral proliferation and worsening oxidative damage. • Retrospective chart review in hospitalized patients with COVID19 pneumonia needing supplemental oxygen shows differences between the two groups (Normal and G6PDd) in hematological indices; the G6PDdgroup demonstrated prolonged PaO2/FiO2 ratio, and longer days on mechanical ventilation indicating the severity of the pneumonia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-673
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Hematology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • African American
  • COVID19
  • G6PD
  • X-linked
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome/blood
  • Hydroxychloroquine/adverse effects
  • Oxidative Stress
  • SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification
  • COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • African Americans
  • Male
  • COVID-19/blood
  • Contraindications, Drug
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency/blood
  • Sex Distribution
  • Critical Care
  • Female
  • Retrospective Studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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