|Year : 2022 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 6-8
Liver injury among coronavirus disease patients
Tarika Sharma1, Jitender Singh2
1 Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Interventional Radiology, ILBS, New Delhi, India
|Date of Submission||02-Sep-2021|
|Date of Decision||15-Dec-2021|
|Date of Acceptance||19-Dec-2021|
|Date of Web Publication||25-Feb-2022|
Department of Interventional Radiology, ILBS, New Delhi
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), also known as Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is a novel coronavirus first identified in December 2019 and has a broad spectrum of clinical presentations. With the expansion of related research, it was found that in addition to respiratory symptoms, digestive involvements and liver injury were reported among COVID-19 patients. Abnormal liver function was observed in cases of COVID-19, manifesting mainly as isolated elevated serum transaminase and lactate dehydrogenase levels. The current review highlights the possible explanation for liver injury among COVID-19 patients.
Keywords: Abnormal liver function, coronavirus disease 2019, etiopathogenesis, liver injury, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, transaminitis
|How to cite this article:|
Sharma T, Singh J. Liver injury among coronavirus disease patients. J Surg Spec Rural Pract 2022;3:6-8
| Introduction|| |
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has aroused a global threat to human health. With the expansion of related research, it was found that in addition to respiratory symptoms, digestive involvements and liver injury were reported among COVID-19 patients. The presence of abnormal liver enzymes in patients with COVID-19 was first reported by Chen et al., in their study among the 99 patients confirmed to have COVID-19, 43 had alanine aminotransferase (ALT) or aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels above the normal range, 75 were reported to have elevated lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels, and one had severely impaired liver function, while the basic liver disease was not reported in these cases. Recently, increasing evidence has highlighted the close relationship of abnormal liver biochemistries with the severity of COVID-19. In the cohort of 1099 patients with COVID-19 from mainland China, 39.4% had AST >40 U/L and 28.1% had ALT >40 U/L, and most of them occurred in severe and critical cases. In other studies also, abnormal liver function was observed in cases of COVID-19, manifesting mainly as isolated elevated serum transaminase and LDH levels., There lies a multifactorial explanation [Figure 1] for the onset of liver injury among COVID-19 patients such as direct effect of virus on the liver, stress-induced liver injury, sepsis-induced liver injury, ischemic/hypoxic liver injury, drug-induced liver injury or the presence of preexisting liver disease and has been highlighted in the current review [Figure 2].
|Figure 1: Multiple factors leading to liver injury in coronavirus disease patients|
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|Figure 2: Etiopathogenesis of liver injury among coronavirus disease patients|
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| Direct Effect of Virus on the Liver (Viral Immunogenic Injury)|| |
Liver damage in COVID-19 patients may be caused by the virus directly affecting liver cells. Studies,, have shown that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) binds to the ACE2 receptor, enabling the virus to replicate in cells. In addition, the expression level of ACE2 is very low in liver cells, accounting for 2.6% of the total number of cells, but highly specific in cholangiocytes, the bile duct cells (59.7%), which is similar to the expression level in major targeted cells (type II alveolar cells) of SARS-CoV-2 in the lung., Therefore, the novel coronavirus does not necessarily directly infect liver cells, but causes bile duct dysfunction by binding with cholangiocytes (bile duct cells), which play an important role in liver regeneration and immune response. Liver injury may be induced by damage to cholangiocytes caused by COVID-19.
| Stress Induced Liver Injury|| |
Hyperactivated immune responses and cytokine storm-related systemic inflammation in SARS-CoV-2 infection can affect and damage many organs, including the gut and liver. Stress-induced liver injury might be associated with hypoxia-reoxygenation, over-activation of Kupffer cells and oxidative stress, intestinal endotoxemia, and activation of the sympathetic nervous and adrenocortical system in COVID-19 patients leading to increased peripheral blood levels of CD8 T cells, interleukin-2, interleukin-6, interleukin-7, interleukin-10, tumor necrosis factor-α, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor, interferon-inducible protein-10, monocyte chemotactic protein 1 etc., among COVID patients with severe disease.,
| Sepsis Induced Liver Injury|| |
Sepsis in COVID-19 patients might be one of the etiologies of liver injury and substantially impairs the prognosis of COVID-19. The pathophysiology of sepsis-related liver injury includes hypoxic liver injury due to ischemia and shock, cholestasis due to altered bile metabolism, hepatocellular injury due to drug toxicity or overwhelming inflammation.
| Ischemic/Hypoxic Liver Injury|| |
Patients with COVID-19 are at risk of having hypoxia and shock. Severe hypoxia and hypovolemia are the major cause of ischemic/hypoxic liver injury in COVID-19 cases with acute lung failure and/or shock. Ischemic/hypoxic liver injury is associated with metabolic acidosis, calcium overloading, and changes of mitochondrial membrane permeability, and has thus far usually manifested as very high aminotransferase concentrations in serum.
| Drug Induced Liver Injury|| |
Many drugs which are used for the treatment of COVID-19 such as antipyretics (e.g., paracetamol) or antivirals (e.g., oseltamivir, lopinavir, and ritonavir) may be hepatotoxic in nature. Simultaneous use of these drugs may be the reason for drug-induced liver injury. If an abnormality of liver enzymes occurs after using a hepatotoxic drug, drug-induced liver injury should first be confirmed or ruled out. In addition, large number of population may also use complementary and alternative medicine (therapy) to prevent infection, which may also induce liver injury. Patients with chronic liver disease, such as those with hepatitis B or hepatitis C, which may have preexisting elevated transaminase levels before treatment, could pose an increased risk of drug-induced liver injury.
| Preexisting Liver Disease|| |
According to the current reports, 1.25%–11% of patients with COVID-19 had preexisting liver diseases. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the common cause of liver function abnormalities in the general population and could also be the cause of liver injuries in COVID-19. Metabolic factors such as obesity and diabetes are highly prevalent in critical cases and associated with mortality in COVID-19. For patients under antiviral therapy, discontinuation of drugs during COVID-19 or the administration of glucocorticoids may also induce the activation of hepatitis B and induce hepatic injuries. For patients with cirrhosis, the systemic inflammation, hypoxia, and circulatory disturbances driven by COVID-19 could induce secondary infection or hepatic decompensation, leading to the exacerbation of preexisting liver disease.
| Conclusion|| |
Liver injury has been seen commonly in COVID-19 patients. The underlying mechanism of liver injury in patients with COVID-19 could be due to the direct effect of virus on the liver, stress-induced liver injury, sepsis-induced liver injury, ischemic/hypoxic liver injury, drug-induced liver injury, or the presence of preexisting liver disease. Hence, frequent and careful monitoring of liver function in patients with COVID-19 is very important which can lead to early diagnosis of hepatitis, liver injury, and liver failure among these patients.
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Conflicts of interest
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[Figure 1], [Figure 2]