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COVID-19 and Gastrointestinal Disease: Implications for the Gastroenterologist.

BACKGROUND: COVID-19 was initially considered a respiratory disease but the SARS-CoV-2 virus can lead to serious systemic consequences affecting major organs including the digestive system.

SUMMARY: This review brings new clinically important information for the gastroenterologist. This includes: the mechanisms of tissue damage seen with the SARS-CoV-2 virus; the consequences of immunosuppression in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and chronic liver disease with the additional risks of decompensation in patients with cirrhosis; the impact of COVID-19 on gastrointestinal emergencies, on gastrointestinal endoscopy, diagnosis and treatments. These highlight the need to understand the clinical pharmacology, toxicology and therapeutic implications of drugs commonly used by gastroenterologists and their links with COVID-19. Key Messages: Any part of the digestive system may be affected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and those with pre-existing disease are at greatest risk of adverse outcomes. The risk for drug-drug interactions is considerable in patients seriously ill with COVID-19 who often require mechanical ventilation and life support. Some repurposed drugs used against SARS-CoV-2 can cause or aggravate some of the COVID-19-related gastrointestinal symptoms and can also induce liver injury. Ongoing clinical studies will hopefully identify effective drugs with a more favourable risk-benefit ratio than many initially tried treatments.

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