Severe anaemia complicating HIV in Malawi; Multiple co-existing aetiologies are associated with high mortality (2020)

Type of publication:
Journal article

Huibers M.H.W.; van Hensbroek M.B.; Calis J.C.; Bates I.; *McKew S.; Allain T.J.; Phiri C.; Coupland S.E.; Phiri K.S.

PLoS ONE; 2020; vol. 15 (no. 2)

Background Severe anaemia is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in HIV-infected adults living in resource-limited countries. Comprehensive data on the aetiology are lacking but are needed to improve outcomes. Methods HIV-infected adults with severe (haemoglobin <=70g/l) or very severe anaemia (haemoglobin <= 50 g/l) were recruited at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi. Fifteen potential causes and associations with anaemia severity and mortality were explored. Results 199 patients were enrolled: 42.2% had very severe anaemia and 45.7% were on ART. More than two potential causes for anaemia were present in 94% of the patients including iron deficiency (55.3%), underweight (BMI<20: 49.7%), TB infection (41.2%) and unsuppressed HIV infection (viral load >1000 copies/ml) (73.9%). EBV/CMV co-infection (16.5%) was associated with very severe anaemia (OR 2.8 95% CI 1.1-6.9). Overall mortality was high (53%; 100/199) with a median time to death of 17.5 days (IQR 6-55) days. Death was associated with folate deficiency (HR 2.2; 95% CI 1.2-3.8) and end stage renal disease (HR 3.2; 95% CI 1.6-6.2). Conclusion Mortality among severely anaemic HIV-infected adults is strikingly high. Clinicians should be aware of the urgent need for a multifactorial approach including starting or optimising HIV treatment, considering TB treatment, nutritional support and optimising renal management.

Link to full-text [no password required – open access]