From the Journals

Case study shows CLL may mask COVID-19 infection



Characteristics of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia can mask COVID-19 infection, creating a risk for patients, practitioners, and the community, according to a case study published in the Lancet Haematology.

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. Courtesy NIAID-RML

A 39-year-old man with a history of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) presented at a clinic in Wenzhou, China, with symptoms of fever, sore throat, productive cough, and dyspnea, according to the authors. COVID-19 infection was not initially suspected, as his whole blood cell and lymphocyte counts were high, the CLL masked a potential infection, and the patient claimed he had no suspect recent travel history.

However, a CT chest scan showed bilateral ground-glass opacities and a small amount of fluid in the patient’s left pleural cavity, leading the attending physician to suspect COVID-19. Testing was ordered and the real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction assay result was positive. The patient was immediately transferred to the isolation ward for management and confirmed COVID-19 infection.

Subsequently, the patient admitted travel to the COVID-19 epicenter in Wuhan province, although it was 25 days prior, indicating a longer period of incubation than generally believed, according to the authors. The patient survived treatment and was eventually discharged.

“Clinical and biochemical data of COVID-19 might be partly masked by coexisting chronic lymphocytic leukemia; better diagnostic strategies (i.e., superior CT differential techniques such as radiomics) could be used for diagnosis,” the researchers concluded, speculating that the apparently longer-than-normal COVID-19 incubation period might be the result of the patient’s compromised immune system.

The authors reported that they had no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Jin X-H et al. Lancet Haematol. 2020;7(4):E351-2.

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