Perspective from Sara El Ouali, MD
Disclosures: Ungaro reports serving as an advisory board member or consultant for AbbVie, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Pfizer and Takeda and has received research support from AbbVie, Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer.
August 03, 2021
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New GI symptoms do not link to increased risk for death in IBD, COVID-19

Perspective from Sara El Ouali, MD
Disclosures: Ungaro reports serving as an advisory board member or consultant for AbbVie, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Pfizer and Takeda and has received research support from AbbVie, Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer.
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New gastrointestinal symptoms among patients with inflammatory bowel disease and COVID-19 did not correlate with an increased risk for death.

“A prior meta-analysis suggested that up to 17.6% of COVID-19 patients have GI symptoms. Data are conflicting on the association of GI symptoms with COVID-19 outcomes, with some reports suggesting worse prognosis among those with GI symptoms while others finding improved outcomes,” Ryan C. Ungaro, MD, MS, Icahn School of Medicine, and colleagues wrote in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. “There are limited data on COVID-19 and GI symptoms among IBD patients.”

GI Symptoms in IBD, COVID

To describe how new onset GI symptoms associated with clinical outcomes among patients with IBD who developed COVID-19, researchers analyzed patients from the Surveillance Epidemiology of Coronavirus Under Research Exclusion for IBD database. Among 2,917 identified patients with IBD and COVID-19, 26.2% experienced new GI symptoms; the most common symptoms were diarrhea (80%) and abdominal pain (34%). Though new GI symptoms were frequently observed among patients in remission, they were more common among patients with active disease (23.3% vs. 29.4%). Further analysis demonstrated patients with IBD and new GI symptoms were more likely to be hospitalized (31.4% vs. 19.2%) while less likely to require intensive care (5.8% vs. 4.6%). New onset GI symptoms did not significantly correlate with the risk for death due to COVID-19 (adjusted OR = 0.72; 95% CI, 0.38-1.36).

“New GI symptoms are common in IBD patients with COVID-19 and are not associated with an increased risk of death due to COVID-19. Our findings suggest that an increase in GI symptoms in IBD patients should prompt consideration of a COVID-19 diagnosis,” Ungaro and colleagues concluded. “Further studies are needed to understand if GI symptoms impact COVID-19 prognosis and if COVID-19 can trigger IBD flares or alter subsequent disease course.”