A higher BMI is not associated with a different immune response and disease course in critically ill COVID-19 patients

on behalf of the RCI-COVID-19 study group

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Background/objectives: Obesity appears to be an independent risk factor for ICU admission and a severe disease course in COVID-19 patients. An aberrant inflammatory response and impaired respiratory function have been suggested as underlying mechanisms. We investigated whether obesity is associated with differences in inflammatory, respiratory, and clinical outcome parameters in critically ill COVID-19 patients. Subjects/methods: Sixty-seven COVID-19 ICU patients were divided into obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m 2, n = 18, 72% class I obesity, 28% class II obesity) and non-obese (BMI < 30 kg/m 2, n = 49) groups. Concentrations of circulating interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interferon gamma (IFN-γ), interferon gamma-induced protein (IP)-10, monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1, and IL-1 receptor antagonist (RA) were determined from ICU admission until 10 days afterward, and routine laboratory and clinical parameters were collected. Results: BMI was 32.6 [31.2–34.5] and 26.0 [24.4–27.7] kg/m 2 in the obese and non-obese group, respectively. Apart from temperature, which was significantly lower in obese patients (38.1 [36.9–38.9] vs. 38.7 [38.0 −39.5] °C, p = 0.02), there were no between-group differences on ICU admission. Plasma cytokine concentrations declined over time (p < 0.05 for all), but no differences between obese and non-obese patients were observed. Also, BMI did not correlate with the cytokine response (IL-6 r = 0.09, p = 0.61, TNF-α r = 0.03, p = 0.99, IP-10 r = 0.28, p = 0.11). The kinetics of clinical inflammatory parameters and respiratory mechanics were also similar in both groups. Finally, no differences in time on ventilator, ICU length of stay or 40-day mortality between obese and non-obese patients were apparent. Conclusions: In COVID-19 patients requiring mechanical ventilation in the ICU, a higher BMI is not related to a different immunological response, unfavorable respiratory mechanics, or impaired outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-694
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021

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