Ferritin – from iron, through inflammation and autoimmunity, to COVID-19

MAHROUM N., Alghory A., Kiyak Z., Alwani A., Seida R., Alrais M., ...More

Journal of Autoimmunity, vol.126, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Volume: 126
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.jaut.2021.102778
  • Journal Name: Journal of Autoimmunity
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, PASCAL, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, EMBASE, MEDLINE, Veterinary Science Database
  • Keywords: Ferritin, Iron homeostasis, Acute phase reactant, Hyperferritinemia, COVID-19
  • Istanbul Medipol University Affiliated: Yes


While it took decades to arrive to a conclusion that ferritin is more than an indicator of iron storage level, it took a short period of time through the COVID-19 pandemic to wonder what the reason behind high levels of ferritin in patients with severe COVID-19 might be. Unsurprisingly, acute phase reactant was not a satisfactory explanation. Moreover, the behavior of ferritin in patients with severe COVID-19 and the subsequent high mortality rates in patients with high ferritin levels necessitated further investigations to understand the role of ferritin in the diseases. Ferritin was initially described to accompany various acute infections, both viral and bacterial, indicating an acute response to inflammation. However, with the introduction of the hyperferritinemic syndrome connecting four severe pathological conditions such as adult-onset Still's disease, macrophage activation syndrome, catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome, and septic shock added another aspect of ferritin where it could have a pathogenetic role rather than an extremely elevated protein only. In fact, suggesting that COVID-19 is a new member in the spectrum of hyperferritinemic syndrome besides the four mentioned conditions could hopefully direct further search on the pathogenetic role of ferritin. Doubtlessly, improving our understanding of those aspects of ferritin would enormously contribute to better coping with severe diseases in terms of treatment and prevention of complications. The origin, history, importance, and the advances of searching the role of ferritin in various pathological and clinical processes are presented hereby in our article. In addition, the implications of ferritin in COVID-19 are addressed.