A new study, headed by Dr. Yana Davidov, senior physician at the Center for Liver Diseases at Sheba Medical Center, found that patients suffering from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease have been observed to be roughly three times as likely to die as a result of a COVID-19 infection compared to patients without NAFLD.
“The virus may attack the liver in a similar manner to the way it attacks the lungs,” said Prof. Ziv Ben-Ari, Head of the Center for Liver Diseases at Sheba Medical Center. According to Ben Ari: “It is also possible that the damage to the liver is caused by the medicine administered to patients as part of their treatment for COVID-19, or as a result of an immunological reaction triggered by the virus, which induces a cytokine storm that can lead to liver inflammation.
382 subjects participated in the study, of which 15.4% had chronic liver disease, with 80% of those suffering from NAFLD. The death rate of patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease stood at about 16.7%, as opposed to 6.8% among those without the disease. The data also showed that the more severe the liver condition was, the more likely the patient was to die.
According to Prof. Ben Ari, the results of the study indicate that it may be worth considering adding those suffering from chronic liver diseases, and NAFLD in particular, to the at-risk groups from COVID-19.