Impaired immune responses have been hypothesised to be a possible trigger of unfavourable outcomes in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We aimed to characterise IgM memory B cells in patients with COVID-19 admitted to an internal medicine ward in Northern Italy. Overall, 66 COVID-19 patients (mean age 74 ± 16.6 years; 29 females) were enrolled. Three patients (4.5%; 1 female) had been splenectomised and were excluded from further analyses. Fifty-five patients (87.3%) had IgM memory B cell depletion, and 18 (28.6%) died during hospitalisation (cumulative incidence rate 9.26/100 person-week; 5.8–14.7 95% CI). All patients who died had IgM memory B cell depletion. A superimposed infection was found in 6 patients (9.5%), all of them having IgM memory B cell depletion (cumulative incidence rate 3.08/100 person-week; 1.3–6.8 95% CI). At bivariable analyses, older age, sex, number of comorbidities, and peripheral blood lymphocyte count < 1500/µl were not correlated with IgM memory B cell depletion. A discrete-to-marked reduction of the B-cell compartment was also noticed in autoptic spleen specimens of two COVID-19 patients. We conclude that IgM memory B cells are commonly depleted in COVID-19 patients and this correlates with increased mortality and superimposed infections.
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