Patients with chronic liver disease or cirrhosis have high mortality rates from the Covid-19 virus, according to a new study conducted by Oxford University Hospitals in the UK and the University of North Carolina in the US.
The researchers found that patients with cirrhosis — scarring of the liver caused by long-term damage — had an overall death rate of 40%. Cirrhosis is often caused by excessive alcohol consumption over many years, prolonged hepatitis infections, or excess fat build-up around the liver, according to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
Researchers studied clinical records from 21 countries encompassing 152 patients with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis who developed Covid-19.
The study, published in the Journal of Hepatology, said: “Those with advanced disease called ‘decompensated cirrhosis’ had the highest rate of death (between 43 and 63%), compared with 12% for patients with liver disease but without cirrhosis.”Dr. Thomas Marjot, who led the project at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, said: “Until now, very little was known about the impact of Covid-19 on patients with pre-existing liver disease.”Marjot said the research revealed coronavirus patients with liver disease face “particularly poor outcomes,” but he cautioned that the study is limited by selection bias because doctors tend to report more severe cases.”Many patients with cirrhosis and Covid-19 who have good outcomes will therefore not be included in the registry,” Marjot said.
“Nonetheless, these findings do suggest high death rates with Covid-19 in patients with cirrhosis and that contracting the virus may lead to a deterioration in liver function. Therefore, anyone coming into hospital with worsening symptoms of liver disease should be considered for coronavirus testing.”