Few Patients With Biologic-Treated IBD Had Severe COVID-19 During the Pandemic

Abdominal pain patient woman having medical exam with doctor on illness from stomach cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic discomfort, Indigestion, Diarrhea, GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease)
Researchers assessed the safety of biologics and risk for severe outcomes in patients with IBD and COVID-19.

The following article is a part of conference coverage from the Digestive Disease Week 2021 Annual Meeting , held virtually from May 21 to 23, 2021. The team at Gastroenterology Advisor will be reporting on the latest news and research conducted by leading experts in gastroenterology. Check back for more from DDW 2021.


Although inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and its related treatments can have negative effects on the immune system, patients with biologic-treated IBD did not appear to be at a higher risk of COVID-19 during the early and later stages of the pandemic, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week 2021.

The research findings were based on a systematic review of studies published between January 1 and November 3, 2020 that reported outcomes in patients with IBD and COVID-19. Outcomes of interest included intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, the need for mechanical ventilation, and mortality. Additionally, the researchers examined studies that reported data on biologics and the association between the use of these agents with the outcomes of interest.

In total, there were 2681 patients with IBD from 12 studies. In the pooled analysis, only 5.1% (95% CI, 3.5%–7.4%) of patients required mechanical ventilation. The overall prevalence rates for ICU admissions and overall mortality were also low at 6.1% (95% CI, 4.2%-8.8%) and 4.5% (95% CI, 2.8%-7.1%), respectively.

The use of biologics did not demonstrate a moderating effect on ICU admissions (coefficient, 0.03; 95% CI, -0.02–0.08; P =.27), need for mechanical ventilation (coefficient, -0.01; 95% CI, -0.08–0.05; P =.68), or mortality (coefficient, 0.03; 95% CI, -0.01–0.07; P =.20).

A multivariable analysis found the use of biologics was not predictive of severe COVID-19. According to the researchers, this finding offers important clinical implications “as it advocates for the ongoing and continued IBD therapy (biologics) in patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

While the findings from this study provide this reassurance, the investigators added that, “The incidence, severity, and outcomes related to COVID-19 in IBD patients needs to be reassessed as data continues to emerge from the pandemic.” These additional data could help provide greater understanding of how different classes of biologics and the use of immunosuppressants affect COVID-19-related outcomes in the IBD population.

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Weissman S, Aziz M, Lee-Smith WM, et al. Biologics and COVID-19 outcomes in inflammatory bowel disease patients. Poster presented at: Digestive Disease Week Annual Meeting; May 21-23, 2021. Abstract Fr501.