SARS-CoV-2 infection in patients with autoimmune hepatitis

J Hepatol. 2021 Jun;74(6):1335-1343. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2021.01.021. Epub 2021 Jan 26.


Background & aims: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to have a devastating impact across the globe. However, little is known about the disease course in patients with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH).

Methods: Data for patients with AIH and SARS-CoV-2 infection were combined from 3 international reporting registries and outcomes were compared to those in patients with chronic liver disease of other aetiology (non-AIH CLD) and to patients without liver disease (non-CLD).

Results: Between 25th March and 24th October 2020, data were collected for 932 patients with CLD and SARS-CoV-2 infection including 70 with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH). Fifty-eight (83%) patients with AIH were taking ≥1 immunosuppressive drug. There were no differences in rates of major outcomes between patients with AIH and non-AIH CLD, including hospitalization (76% vs. 85%; p = 0.06), intensive care unit admission (29% vs. 23%; p = 0.240), and death (23% vs. 20%; p = 0.643). Factors associated with death within the AIH cohort included age (odds ratio [OR] 2.16/10 years; 1.07-3.81), and Child-Pugh class B (OR 42.48; 4.40-409.53), and C (OR 69.30; 2.83-1694.50) cirrhosis, but not use of immunosuppression. Propensity score matched (PSM) analysis comparing patients with AIH with non-AIH CLD demonstrated no increased risk of adverse outcomes including death (+3.2%; -9.2%-15.7%). PSM analysis of patients with AIH vs. non-CLD (n = 769) demonstrated increased risk of hospitalization with AIH (+18.4%; 5.6-31.2%), but equivalent risk of all other outcomes including death (+3.2%; -9.1%-15.6%).

Conclusion: Patients with AIH were not at increased risk of adverse outcomes despite immunosuppressive treatment compared to other causes of CLD and to matched cases without liver disease.

Lay summary: Little is known about the outcomes of COVID-19 in patients with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), a rare chronic inflammatory liver disease. This study combines data from 3 large registries to describe the course of COVID-19 in this patient group. We show that AIH patients do not appear to have an increased risk of death from COVID-19 compared to patients with other forms of liver disease and compared to patients without liver disease, despite the use of medications which suppress the immune system.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; autoimmune hepatitis; coronavirus; immunosuppression; liver disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19 / mortality*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / mortality*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Propensity Score
  • SARS-CoV-2*