New Delhi: Low platelet count is one of the common features of viral infections. But, in most cases, the platelets reach normal levels as soon as the infection subsides. However, in the case of Covid-19, doctors have come across patients who continue to exhibit low platelet counts for weeks after recovery.
In most cases, the doctors pointed out, the deficit in platelets was marginal and didn’t require medical intervention. But there have been rare cases of patients coming with extremely low platelet counts necessitating medical management.
“We saw three recovered patients recently with very low 10,000-20,000 platelets per microlitre of blood. One 85-year-old man had a count of 2,000 with extensive bleeding below the skin. All of them required medical management, including administration of steroids,” said Dr Atul Gogia, senior consultant, internal medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
Dr Rommel Tickoo, director, internal medicine, Max Hospital, Saket, explained, “Normal platelet counts range from 1,50,000 to 4,00,000 per microlitre of blood. Of the recovered Covid patients, nearly 20% have platelet counts in the range of 1,00,000 to 1,50,000, which is low but this doesn’t necessitate any intervention. We should worry only if the platelet count reduces to 50,000 or less or if there is bleeding from the gums or the nose.” Dr Naveen Dang, consultant microbiologist and founder of Dr Dang’s Lab, said he had also seen many patients who continued to have platelets in the range of 1-1.5 lakh per microlitre of blood for weeks after recovering from the coronavirus infection. “It is not something to be scared of,” he assured.
Platelets are one of the cellular components of the blood along with white and red blood cells. They play an important role in clotting and bleeding. According to Dr Neeraj Nischal, an assistant professor in the medicine department of AIIMS, reduced platelet count after Covid could be caused by multiple factors, for example theadministration of blood thinner drugs to treat the infection.
“It could also be an incidental finding and may suggest some underlying illness. The role of the novel coronavirus in disrupting the immune system to induce thrombocytopenia cannot be ruled out either, but this requires further investigation,” Nischal said. Last year, scientists from China reported a case in which a 49-year-old woman showed a very low platelet count for nearly four months after recovering from non-severe Covid. They attributed it to the damage suffered by the immune system during the corona infection.