Risk factors for severe COVID-19/death amplified by age, male sex and obesity

June 2, 2020

Clear risk factors have been reported in observational studies related to the COVID-19 outbreak in China, but similar studies with European patients are lacking: a team of UK researchers, using data from the ISARIC/WHO Clinical Characterisation Protocol i.e. a study for severe emerging infections in the UK, found that risk of death in COVID-19 increases in the over 50s, as does being male, obese, or having underlying heart, lung, liver and kidney disease. The researchers said this study is “the largest of its kind outside of China” and shows that severe COVID-19 indeed leads to a prolonged hospital stay and a high mortality rate.

In the study, the average age of the 20,133 patients analysed was 73 years, and more men (12,068; 60%) were admitted to acute care hospitals – in England, Wales, and Scotland – compared to women (8,065; 40%). The researchers noticed poor outcomes with increasing age and underlying heart, lung, liver and kidney disease, especially for those requiring mechanical ventilation – around 37% had died, 17% had been discharged, alive, and 46% remained in hospital.

More importantly, the researchers found that obesity and gender were associated with the need for higher levels of care and higher risk of death in hospital. While obesity is a major additional risk factor that was not highlighted in data from China, the reports in the UK study “broadly reflects the global pattern;the UK researchers suspect that reduced lung function or inflammation associated with obesity may be to blame.

The results have already been shared with the UK Government and World Health Organization (WHO) and are being compared with data from other countries around the world. The ongoing study has recruited over 43,000 patients, so far; the findings will help health professionals learn more about how the illness progresses and enable us to compare the UK with other countries, said the researchers.

“If we are going to be managing COVID-19 for the next several years, we need to understand and optimise care before, during, and beyond the hospital.”

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Category: Education, Features

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