A study by Oxford University researchers has found that liver problems are common among patients with COVID-19.
Patient data revealed that baseline hypoalbuminemia (an possible indication that the liver is producing low levels of albumin) and rising alkaline phosphatase (ALP), which can be a sign of liver damage, could be prognostic markers for death.
However, the researchers say that larger studies are needed to develop a better understanding of the relationship between liver biochemistry and COVID-19 outcomes.
The research was carried out under the auspices of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Informatics Collaborative (HIC) , established in 2014 to make routinely collected clinical data available for translational research in selected therapeutic areas across multiple sites. The NIHR HIC viral hepatitis theme is led by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Oxford, through the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).
The paper was published in Hepatology Communications, the Journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases
Professor Eleanor Barnes, the Chief Investigator of the NIHR HIC viral hepatitis theme, said: “We aimed to determine whether abnormal liver biochemistry was associated with death in patients hospitalised with COVID-19, and to see if the trajectory of specific liver tests measured over time could predict worse outcomes”.
The Oxford team used routinely collected clinical data from a large UK hospital, matching 585 hospitalised patients with COVID-19 to 1,165 patients without the infection.
Almost 27 per cent of the patients with COVID-19 died, compared to around 12 per cent in the group without. A significantly higher proportion of the group with COVID-19 had signs of liver damage.
Those aged over 75 or with pre-existing liver disease were at much greater risk or dying.