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The risk of contracting COVID-19 is not increased in coeliac disease

A major international study involving members of Coeliac NZ has found that people with coeliac disease do not appear to be at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. The study findings have recently been published in the prestigious journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

More than 18,000 people from around the world completed the online survey between March and June 2020. The survey consisted of 41 questions relating to COVID-19 exposure, testing and diagnosis. Doctors, researchers and coeliac disease advocacy groups collaborated to distribute the survey in the Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Spain, Mexico City, Uruguay, Italy, the United States and Canada. The study included over 1000 Australian participants.

Of 940 study participants who reported being tested for COVID-19, about 9% reported a positive COVID-19 result. Survey participants with coeliac disease as well as the non-coeliac ‘control’ group were equally as likely to have a positive test. Whilst reassuring, the authors note that the findings are based on information self-reported by participants and were not independently verified.

“The presence of comorbidities, which was identified as an important predictor of morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19, were more frequent in celiac disease [patients] than controls,” study authors wrote. “However, this did not result in higher odds of a positive COVID-19 test in [those with] celiac disease.”

And although nearly 30 percent of those with coeliac disease reported taking extra precautions to protect against COVID-19 infection, these measures did not change the likelihood of a positive test result. “Exposure to a COVID-19 contact was the only factor increasing the odds of a positive test,” the study says.

Associate Professor Jason Tye-Din, a co-author on the study and chair of the Medical Advisory Committee of Coeliac Australia, noted: “This global study is a testament to the strength of collaborative research. It provides very reassuring data to people with coeliac disease that their odds of contracting COVID-19 are similar to people without coeliac disease". We are very grateful to the New Zealand coeliac community and their family and friends who got involved.

The authors note that the study was not designed to assess whether those with coeliac disease are at higher risk of serious illness due to COVID-19 compared to the general population. The international SECURE-Celiac registry, that is currently ongoing, aims to address this issue.

Zhen J, Stefanolo J, Temprano M, Tedesco S, Seiler C, Caminero A, deMadaria E, Montoro Huguet M, Vivas S, Niveloni S, Bercik P, Smecuol E, Uscanga L, Trucco E, Lopez V, Olano C, Mansueto P, Caroccio A, Green P, Day A, Tye-Din J, Bai J, Ciacci C, Verdu E, Lebwohl B, Pinto-Sanchez M. THE RISK OF CONTRACTING COVID-19 IS NOT INCREASED IN PATIENTS WITH CELIAC DISEASE. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (2020), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2020.10.009

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