The study appeared online onJuly 29 in Hepatology.
Previous studies in China found that approximately 15% of patients with COVID-19 had abnormal liver tests. The Yale study, which looked retrospectively at 1,827 COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized in the Yale New Haven Health system between March and April, found that the incidence of abnormal liver tests was much higher — between 41.6% and 83.4% of patients, depending on the specific test.
In all, the Yale researchers examined five liver tests, looking at factors such as elevations in aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine transaminase (ALT), which indicate liver cell inflammation; an increase in bilirubin, which indicates liver dysfunction; and increased levels of alkaline phosphatase (ALP), which may indicate inflammation of bile ducts.
Although the researchers do not know why the incidence of abnormal liver tests was so much higher than in previous studies from China, senior author Dr. Joseph Lim, professor of medicine and director of the Yale Viral Hepatitis Program, said other health differences between the Chinese and U.S. populations could account for it.
“We can speculate that U.S. patients may have an increased rate of other risk factors such as alcoholic or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” he said.
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