Death from COVID-19 was not more likely among patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who had COVID-19 who developed new GI symptoms after becoming infected, according to international registry data from nearly 3,000 adults.
Although GI symptoms may arise in the general population of COVID-19 patients, data on the association between GI symptoms and COVID-19 in patients with IBD are limited, as are data on the association of GI symptoms and COVID-19 outcomes in this population, Ryan C. Ungaro, MD, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and colleagues wrote.
In a study published in, the researchers identified 2,917 adults with IBD who developed COVID-19 using the Surveillance Epidemiology of Coronavirus Under Research Exclusion in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (SECURE-IBD) database, a global registry created to understand COVID-19 outcomes in IBD patients.
The researchers recorded all new GI symptoms experienced by the patients while they were infected with COVID-19. Overall, 764 (26.2%) experienced new GI symptoms and 2,153 did not. The most common symptom was diarrhea, reported by 80% of the patients, followed by abdominal pain in 34%. Nausea and vomiting were reported by 24% and 12%, respectively, of all patients.
The average age of the patients was 43 years for those with no new GI symptoms and 40 for those without new GI symptoms; overall, approximately half were women and approximately three-quarters were White. Overall, 50% of those with new GI symptoms were in remission, as was the case for 58.4% of those without.
IBD patients who developed new GI symptoms were significantly more likely to be women, of Asian race, older, or have at least one comorbidity.
The researchers found no difference in new GI symptoms in patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. “Patients on any medication – but in particular [tumor necrosis factor] antagonist monotherapy – were less likely to report new GI symptoms.” they wrote.
Although IBD patients with new GI symptoms were significantly more likely than were those without new GI symptoms to be hospitalized for COVID-19 in bivariate analyses (31.4% vs. 19.2%; P < .001), they were not more likely to need a ventilator or intensive care (5.8% vs. 4.6%; P < .18). In a multivariate analysis, IBD patients with new GI symptoms had no greater risk of death from COVID-19 than did those without new GI symptoms (adjusted odds ratio, 0.72; 95% confidence interval, 0.38-1.36).
The new-onset GI symptoms common to IBD patients with COVID-19 are not likely caused by underlying disease activity, given the number of patients in remission who reported new GI symptoms, the researchers wrote.
The study findings were limited by several factors including the retrospective design, potential reporting bias, and reliance on physician global assessment for disease assessment, the researchers noted. However, the results were strengthened by the large sample size, by the ability to assess GI symptoms before and after COVID-19, and by the evaluation of GI symptoms and COVID-19 outcomes.
“In summary, 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,” the researchers concluded. “Our findings suggest that an increase in GI symptoms in IBD patients should prompt consideration of a COVID-19 diagnosis.”