Auto-immune hepatitis and Covid-19

Posted on: 1st February 2021

A recent study by researchers at Oxford University Hospitals into the effects of the Covid-19 virus on patients with auto-immune hepatitis (AIH) suggests that patients with AIH using immunosuppression medication have similar outcomes to people with other forms of liver disease.

This suggests that the use of immunosuppression is not a risk factor for death from COVID-19.

Researchers collected data between March 2020 and October 2020 for nearly 1,000 patients with chronic liver disease and Covid-19 infection, including 70 with AIH.

The results showed that there were no differences in rates of hospitalization, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and death between AIH patients and those with other types of liver disease.

When compared to patients without liver disease, patients with AIH had higher rates of hospitalisation but no increased risk of intensive care admission or death.

Professor Douglas Thorburn, Consultant Hepatologist at the Royal Free Hospital and a Medical Advisor to the British Liver Trust, said: “The results of this study will be reassuring for people with autoimmune hepatitis who are taking immunosuppressant medication. However, more research is needed including into the long-term effects of Covid-19.

“In the meantime, we’d still advise that all liver patients, including those with AIH, to continue to follow the existing guidelines.  People who have been told that they are clinically extremely vulnerable should, at the moment, continue to shield. This is particularly important given the higher rates of hospitalisation of patients with Covid-19 and AIH compared to people without liver disease.”