Hospitalization, intensive care and death rates same as for general population, study finds
By Amy Ratner, Director Scientific Affairs
People with celiac disease don’t have an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19, a new study has found.
Celiac disease did not increase someone’s risk for hospitalization, admission to intensive care or death attributed to COVID-19, researchers from the United States and Sweden concluded when they looked at a group of nearly 41,000 Swedish people with celiac disease and compared them to controls.
This study’s conclusions are consistent with results of an earlier international survey of more than 10,000 people with celiac disease that found the risk of getting COVID-19 was not increased compared to the general population.
In the new study, during the first six months of the pandemic, the risk of being diagnosed with COVID-19 for those with celiac disease was about 1 percent and the risk of related hospitalization was about 1 in 1,000. This was the same level of risks found in controls who did not have celiac disease.
Those with celiac disease are at increased risk of certain viral infections and pneumococcal pneumonia, prompting researchers from the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues to investigate whether they might also be susceptible to severe COVID-19.
“The results of the current study suggest that celiac disease does not confer additional risk related the COVID-19,” says the study, published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology.
An international registry open to healthcare professionals continues tracking COVID-19 in those who have celiac disease to identify disease specific risk factors for more severe consequences.
Study limitations include the fact that in Sweden regulations regarding social distancing were different from other places, possibly impacting whether results could be generalized to other locations. The authors note that since Sweden did not have a general lockdown, it is likely that the number of people with COVID-19 was increased.
About 400 people with celiac disease in the study group were diagnosed with COVID-19. But it is likely a number of people had COVID-19 but were never officially diagnosed due to the wide range of severity of symptoms, but those with mild infection were less relevant to the study, the authors wrote.
Additionally, the study did not include those with undiagnosed or untreated celiac disease so the conclusions about COVID-19 might not apply, the study notes.