COVID-19, MERS and SARS with Concomitant Liver Injury-Systematic Review of the Existing Literature

J Clin Med. 2020 May 11;9(5):1420. doi: 10.3390/jcm9051420.


The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) infection has been predominantly linked to respiratory distress syndrome, but gastrointestinal symptoms and hepatic injury have also been reported. The mechanism of liver injury is poorly understood and may result as a consequence of viral hepatitis, systemic inflammatory response, gut barrier and microbiome alterations, intensive care treatment or drug toxicity. The incidence of hepatopathy among patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is unclear, but studies have reported liver injury in patients with SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). We aimed to systematically review data on the prevalence of hepatic impairments and their clinical course in SARS and MERS Coronaviridae infections. A systematic literature search (PubMed/Embase/Cinahl/Web of Science) according to preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis protocols (PRISMA) was conducted from database inception until 17/03/2020 for studies that evaluated the incidence of hepatic abnormalities in SARS CoV-1, SARS CoV-2 and MERS infected patients with reported liver-related parameters. A total of forty-three studies were included. Liver anomalies were predominantly mild to moderately elevated transaminases, hypoalbuminemia and prolongation of prothrombin time. Histopathology varied between non-specific inflammation, mild steatosis, congestion and massive necrosis. More studies to elucidate the mechanism and importance of liver injury on the clinical course and prognosis in patients with novel SARS-CoV-2 infection are warranted.

Keywords: COVID-19; MERS; SARS; SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus; liver; pandemic.

Publication types

  • Review