COVID-19 complications with pre-existing diseases

A study by Associate Professor Hayder Al-Aubaidy has examined the long-term implications of COVID-19 and chronic diseases.

Story by Rei Fortes.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has shown that having pre-existing medical conditions and chronic diseases increases the susceptibility of becoming severely ill from the virus. According to the Centres for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) adults over the age of 45 with chronic diseases are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms.

Associate Professor Hayder Al-Aubaidy, an expert in clinical biochemistry from the School of Life Sciences at La Trobe University, has been collaborating with colleagues at La Trobe and in Iraq to examine the effects of COVID-19 on participants with chronic conditions.

“Our study looked at four groups of patients with COVID-19 and pre-existing chronic diseases from three hospitals in Iraq during a two week period. This includes patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and also patients with existing renal conditions as well as patients with chronic liver disease,” says Associate Professor Hayder Al-Aubaidy . “We analysed the changes in biochemical markers from patients with liver disease, renal (kidney) disease, diabetes mellitus and compared with a forth group with no pre-existing disease”.”

Associate Professor Al-Aubaidy collaborated with Dr Osama J Ahmed from the College of Science at the University of Baghdad, and Professor Estabraq A Al-Wasiti from the College of Medicine at Al-Nahrain University and Dr Dina Jamil from the College of Science at La Trobe University. Their research was recently published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Research International.

“Following COVID infection, there was a significant rise in some of the biochemical markers related to the pre-existing conditions,” says Associate Professor Al-Aubaidy. “The complications related to the COVID infection will add more burden to the pre-existing conditions.”

“If we look into the patients with type 2 diabetes, the levels of fasting blood glucose significantly increased following COVID-19 infection.This may be related to the pre-existing conditions as well as the development of acute pancreatitis,” says Associate Professor Al-Aubaidy. “The study group with chronic liver disease has higher levels of liver enzymes and serum bilirubin, indicating more damage is occurring to the liver compared to the study group with no pre-existing medical condition.”

“Vaccination is essential to reduce the risk of infection as well as minimising the likelihood of developing complications,” says Professor Al-Wasiti.

Results from the study also showed changes in biochemical levels from the renal disease and no pre-existing disease groups indicating their vulnerability to the COVID-19. Associate Professor Al-Aubaidy explains that having pre-existing chronic disease may contribute to reducing the immune system of the patients and exacerbates consequences from the virus infection.

”Patients with pre-existing chronic conditions are at higher risk of developing complications following COVID-19 infection, and even after recovery could suffer long lasting effects,“ says Associate Professor Al-Aubaidy. “It’s these people who should be cautious and have higher priority for accessing COVID-19 vaccines.”