Chronic inflammatory bowel disease patients no greater risk for COVID-19

catharina hospital
Photo credit: Catharina Ziekenhuis/Studio040

Patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease are not at greater risk of a serious course of COVID-19. “For patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, this is a very important and reassuring message,” says gastroenterologist Dr. Lennard Gilissen. This conclusion was recently published in the international medical journal Clinical and Experimental Medicine. It is so far the only article in the world with long-term results on this patient group.

“We investigated how often a group of 1453 Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis patients at the Catharina Hospital had a severe course of COVID-19 during the first year of the corona outbreak in the Netherlands,” Gilissen explains. “Due to their chronic disease, these are vulnerable patients, 40 percent of whom are on immunosuppressive medication. Patients on these medications have reduced resistance to various infections. Little is known about the course of a corona infection in this category of patients. Fortunately, the risk of a more serious course leading to hospitalisation or death does not appear to be the case.

General population

Gilissen continues: “In our patient group, we mapped out the disease type, age, and medication use in detail using anonymous data that we normally study to improve our quality of care. In addition, we looked at admission and death by COVID-19 in and outside of the hospital in different ways. The findings of the entire group of Crohn’s disease and colitis patients were compared to those of the general population in the South-East Brabant region and nationally.”


The risk of hospitalization (7 patients, 0.48 percent) and death (2 patients, 0.14 percent) due to COVID-19 did not differ significantly from the general population. “There are several theoretical explanations for this. The main one seems to be the inhibitory effect of immune-suppressive drugs on the exaggerated immune response seen in patients with severe COVID-19. This outcome may also be important for patients with other immune-related disorders who are on the same medication. Think of rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis patients. But this will require further investigation,” says Gilissen.

No surprise

The results of the study are no surprise to Gilissen. “During the first outbreak wave in 2020, as a doctor on the corona ward, I didn’t see any of my patients being admitted with corona. I did hear that patients had COVID-19, but with mild symptoms at most. I am glad that we have now been able to prove this with a solid study. Nevertheless, I advise all my patients to get vaccinated. I believe that we should protect ourselves optimally if we have the opportunity.” The full article can be read here.


Translation: Anitha Sevugan

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