15 April 2020 (Wednesday) - Splenic Function


We had a phone call yesterday. A front-line worker with coeliac disease has been advised by ... lets say "a prominent and respected organisation" to have her blood taken and a film examined for Howell Jolly bodies.
The rationale is that the absence of Howell-Jolly bodies will prove adequate splenic function for her to continue working in a front-line role during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
This seemed a rather strange request to me and all of my colleagues. I mentioned it to one of the consultants who laughed and said that it was complete nonsense… but just wait – in five years it will be standard practice. (He’s probably got a point).

I thought I might ask the wider blood-testing community their opinion so I posted on the Facebook Hematology Interest Group.
The responses came into three broad categories.

  • There were a lot of rather stupid and irrelevant animated gifs.
  • There was a lot of opinion from people who clearly didn’t know the first thing about the blood test in question.
  • And there were a few posts which addressed my question whilst showing some understanding of the matter. But only a few.


There were several references to articles posted from people in the third category amazingly ten per cent of people with coeliac disease also have reduced splenic function. Perhaps we *will* be looking for Howell-Jolly bodies more often?

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