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Study links low immunity to poor outcomes in patients with HIV who contract COVID-19

New research shows patients with HIV are susceptible to coronavirus and identifies which factors increased the risk of hospitalization and death.

Infectious Diseases physician, Dima Dandachi, MD, sees a patient at the University Physicians Medicine Specialty Clinic.

Infectious Diseases physician Dima Dandachi sees a patient at the University Physicians Medicine Specialty Clinic.

Oct. 13, 2020

Clinical trials are testing whether medications that treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can also treat COVID-19, leading some patients with HIV to believe they might be protected against the coronavirus. But a researcher from the University of Missouri School of Medicine not only found patients with HIV are susceptible to the virus, she also discovered which factors increased the risk of hospitalization and death.

“We were able to show that patients with HIV who are actively taking their medication are just as susceptible to COVID-19 as the general public,” said Dima Dandachi, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the MU School of Medicine. “And those with low immunity uncontrolled HIV or newly diagnosed HIV are at a higher risk of hospitalization or death. The key message for these patients is to take precautions against contracting the virus while ensuring they are compliant with their HIV medications to raise their immune cell count as high as possible.”

Dandachi and her team of researchers found people with HIV older than 60 and those with chronic health issues also had a much higher risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19.

As a researcher-clinician who treats patients with HIV, Dandachi will use this study to counsel her patients to best protect themselves against COVID-19 while also using it as proof that this patient population should be among the first considered for protection once a vaccine is developed.

Read more from the MU School of Medicine

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