Immune-signature to evaluate COVID-19-related liver injury and outcomes

Illustration of red blood cells and web of connections

Between 14% and 53% of patients infected with COVID-19 present with acute liver injury. In patients who have died from COVID-19, incidence of liver injury reached 78%, indicating a potential association between COVID-19-related liver disease and mortality.

The pathophysiology underlying liver disease during COVID-19 infection is not understood. However, previous data from SARS studies and a single pathology report on COVID-19 indicate that the virus is non-cytopathic in liver cells, suggesting that the hepatic damage is likely immune-mediated.

Co-led by Jose Debes, MD, MS, assistant professor of infectious diseases and international medicine, and Thomas Leventhal, MD, assistant professor of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, this study will assess blood samples from COVID-19 patients aiming to predict the development of acute liver injury, predict COVID-19-related mortality and outcomes, and provide insights in the immune-pathology of COVID-19-related liver disease.

This project is supported by the UMN Campus Public Health Officer's CO:VID (Collaborative Outcomes: Visionary Innovation & Discovery) grants program, which support University of Minnesota faculty to catalyze and energize small-scale research projects designed to address and mitigate the COVID-19 virus and its associated risks.