Background: Thrombocytopenia is associated with increased mortality in COVID-19 patients. Objective: To determine the association between thrombocytopenia and alterations in host response pathways implicated in disease pathogenesis in patients with severe COVID-19. Patients/methods: We studied COVID-19 patients admitted to a general hospital ward included in a national (CovidPredict) cohort derived from 13 hospitals in the Netherlands. In a subgroup, 43 host response biomarkers providing insight in aberrations in distinct pathophysiological domains (coagulation and endothelial cell function; inflammation and damage; cytokines and chemokines) were determined in plasma obtained at a single time point within 48 h after admission. Patients were stratified in those with normal platelet counts (150-400 × 109/L) and those with thrombocytopenia (<150 × 109/L). Results: 6.864 patients were enrolled in the national cohort, of whom 1.348 had thrombocytopenia and 5.516 had normal platelets counts; the biomarker cohort consisted of 429 patients, of whom 85 with thrombocytopenia and 344 with normal platelet counts. Plasma D-dimer levels were not different in thrombocytopenia, although patients with moderate-severe thrombocytopenia (<100 × 109/L) showed higher D-dimer levels, indicating enhanced coagulation activation. Patients with thrombocytopenia had lower plasma levels of many proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines, and antiviral mediators, suggesting involvement of platelets in inflammation and antiviral immunity. Thrombocytopenia was associated with alterations in endothelial cell biomarkers indicative of enhanced activation and a relatively preserved glycocalyx integrity. Conclusion: Thrombocytopenia in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 is associated with broad host response changes across several pathophysiological domains. These results suggest a role of platelets in the immune response during severe COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-197
Number of pages11
JournalThrombosis research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Host immune response
  • Mortality
  • Platelets
  • Thrombocytopenia

Cite this