In Brief: Analysis of Risk Factors for COVID-19

image of patient in hospital

Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian investigators examined patient data to determine how obesity and inflammatory bowel disease affect SARS-CoV-2 infection and the course of COVID-19.

Study Reports Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease Aren’t at Higher Risk of Infections or Complications from COVID-19

There was initial concern that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients—who are often prescribed immunosuppressive medications—may be at higher risk of infection and complications from COVID-19. But a paper published May 29 in Gastroenterology reports this group did not experience more severe cases compared to others with the virus. Investigators from the Jill Roberts Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease and the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian conducted a matched case-control analysis comparing deaths, intensive care unit admissions and intubation rates in 80 IBD patients and 160 patients without IBD, all with confirmed COVID-19. 

A separate analysis showed that patients with active IBD and those requiring oral or intravenous corticosteroid therapy were more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19. The overall prevalence of COVID-19, regardless of underlying medication use, was similar among patients with IBD and the general population in NYC during the study period. Ulcerative colitis, an IBD condition, was specifically linked to greater risk of severe cases, but neither degree of IBD activity nor biologic medication use predicted a need for higher levels of COVID-19 care. Since IBD patients with COVID-19 showed more frequent gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms than the general population, investigators recommend clinicians evaluate IBD patients who present with new GI symptoms for the virus.

Corresponding author: Dana J. Lukin.

Obese Patients with COVID-19 More Likely to Experience Respiratory Complications, but Not Death, According to NYC Hospital Data

A letter published in Annals of Internal Medicine July 6 by Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian investigators reports that obese patients with COVID-19 were at greater risk for respiratory failure than normal weight patients, but not at greater risk for death. To investigate the association between obesity and complications from COVID-19, the researchers looked at data of 1,687 adult patients with confirmed cases at two New York City hospitals between March 3 and May 15, 31 percent of whom were obese.

Prior research suggests that there may be an “obesity paradox” for other respiratory viruses, where obese patients have improved outcomes compared to those who with normal or low weight. The study results provide insights on this paradox for COVID-19, and additionally suggest “the need to consider the community-specific prevalence of obesity when planning a community's COVID-19 response,” according to the investigators.

Corresponding author: Parag Goyal.

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