Elevation of serum ferritin levels for predicting a poor outcome in hospitalized patients with influenza infection

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2020 Nov;26(11):1557.e9-1557.e15. doi: 10.1016/j.cmi.2020.02.018. Epub 2020 Feb 28.


Objectives: There is increasing evidence that ferritin is a key marker of macrophage activation, but its potential role in influenza infection remains unexplored. Our aim was to assess whether hyperferritinaemia (ferritin ≥500 ng/mL) could be a marker of poor prognosis in hospitalized patients with confirmed influenza A infection.

Methods: We prospectively recruited all hospitalized adult patients who tested positive for the influenza A rRT-PCR assay performed on respiratory samples in two consecutive influenza periods (2016-17 and 2017-18). Poor outcome was defined as the presence of at least one of the following: respiratory failure, admission to the intensive care unit, or in-hospital mortality.

Results: Among 494 patients, 68 (14%) developed poor outcomes; 112 patients (23%) had hyperferritinaemia (39/68, 57% in the poor-outcome group versus 73/426, 17% in the remaining patients, p < 0.0001). Median serum ferritin levels were significantly higher in the subgroup of patients with poor outcomes (609 ng/mL, range 231-967 versus 217 ng/mL, range 140-394, p < 0.0001). In multivariate analysis, hyperferritinaemia was associated with a five-fold increase in the odds ratio of developing poor outcome. After adjusting for classic influenza risk factors, ferritin remained as a significant predictive factor in all exploratory models. Ferritin levels had a good discriminative capacity with an area under the ROC curve of 0.72 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.65-0.8, p < 0.001) and an overall diagnostic accuracy for predicting poor outcome of 79.3% (95%CI 75.4-82.7%).

Conclusions: Serum ferritin may discriminate a subgroup of patients with influenza infection who have a higher risk of developing a poor outcome.

Keywords: Ferritin; Hyperferritinaemia; Influenza; Outcome; Respiratory failure.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Critical Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus / genetics*
  • Influenza, Human / blood
  • Influenza, Human / complications
  • Influenza, Human / diagnosis*
  • Influenza, Human / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Up-Regulation*


  • Ferritins