Research by Oxford scientists has shown that rates of COVID-19 infection are not increased in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who are being treated with the drugs infliximab or vedolizumab.
The study data suggest there is no reason for treatment with these drugs to be stopped.
The paper, published on the pre-print server medRxiv, was produced by researchers at the Oxford Translational Gastroenterology Unit and the Department of Laboratory Immunology, both based at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The study was supported by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.
The study was launched to address concerns amongst clinicians and patients that immunomodulatory treatments for IBD may increase the risk of susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 or of progression to severe disease.
The blood from 640 patients attending the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and the Royal London Hospital for maintenance infliximab or vedolizumab infusions between April and June 2020 was tested. Demographic and clinical data were collated from electronic patient records and research databases.
Seropositivity rates of 3.0% were found in the Oxford in the Oxford cohort, lower than that seen in non-patient facing health-care workers within the same hospital. Rates of 7.2% and 12.5% were found in the London adult IBD cohort and London paediatric IBD cohort respectively. The latter rate was comparable to a contemporary healthy cohort collected at the same hospital.
The paper concluded: “SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity rates are not elevated in patients with IBD receiving maintenance infliximab or vedolizumab infusions. There is no rationale based on these data for elective interruption of maintenance therapy, and we recommend continuation of maintenance therapy.”
The data did not address the efficacy of vaccination in these patients.