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New research suggests immunosuppressants do not increase the risk of COVID-19.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients on immunosuppressive drugs have similar outcomes to COVID-19 patients who are not, according to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 1.89 million deaths and there have been over 86.7 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. There is an estimated 10 million immunocompromised people in the United States alone and immune suppression has been considered a potentially major risk fact for severe or fatal COVID-19. This is mainly due to the belief that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread unchecked in the body of immunosuppressed people.

Investigators analyzed the records of 2121 hospitalized COVID-19 patients at John Hopkins Medicine medical system in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. between March 4 and August 29, 2020. According to the study, investigators found that COVID-19 patients who were on immunosuppressants did not have worse COVID-19 outcomes on average when compared to patients who were not.

According to investigators, about 5% of cases during the study period could be classified as immunosuppressed due to the use of either anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-rejection drugs. The study found that on average, hospital stays were not longer for patients on immunosuppressive drugs than those who were not.

"There has been concern that immunosuppression might be an important risk factor for severe COVID-19, but reassuringly we found no sign of that," said study first author Kayte Andersen, a PhD candidate in the Bloomberg School's Department of Epidemiology in a press release.

Investigators are currently undertaking a following-up analysis of a much larger data set, which will allow for more precise estimates. The results of the smaller study accounted for different factors between the groups such as age, sex, and non-COVID-19 disease burden that may have skewed the analysis.

REFERENCE:

COVID-19 outcomes for patients on immunosuppressive drugs on par with non- immunosuppressed patients [News Release] January 7, 2021; Baltimore, MD. Accessed January 11, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/jhub-sb010721.php.

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