Prolonged SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Patients with Lymphoid Malignancies

Lee CY, Shah MK, Hoyos D, Solovyov A, Douglas M, Taur Y, Maslak P, Babady NE, Greenbaum B, Kamboj M, Vardhana SA.

Cancer Discov. 2022 Jan;12(1):62-73.


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection results in both acute mortality and persistent and/or recurrent disease in patients with hematologic malignancies, but the drivers of persistent infection in this population are unknown. We found that B-cell lymphomas were at particularly high risk for persistent severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) positivity. Further analysis of these patients identified discrete risk factors for initial disease severity compared with disease chronicity. Active therapy and diminished T-cell counts were drivers of acute mortality in COVID-19-infected patients with lymphoma. Conversely, B cell-depleting therapy was the primary driver of rehospitalization for COVID-19. In patients with persistent SARS-CoV-2 positivity, we observed high levels of viral entropy consistent with intrahost viral evolution, particularly in patients with impaired CD8+ T-cell immunity. These results suggest that persistent COVID-19 infection is likely to remain a risk in patients with impaired adaptive immunity and that additional therapeutic strategies are needed to enable viral clearance in this high-risk population. SIGNIFICANCE: We describe the largest cohort of persistent symptomatic COVID-19 infection in patients with lymphoid malignancies and identify B-cell depletion as the key immunologic driver of persistent infection. Furthermore, we demonstrate ongoing intrahost viral evolution in patients with persistent COVID-19 infection, particularly in patients with impaired CD8+ T-cell immunity.