COVID-19 Vaccine Responses in Autoimmune Liver Disease Patients

December 1, 2022

Researchers conducted a prospective observational study of 76 autoimmune liver disease (AILD) patients, with about half receiving immunosuppressive medications. Participants included in the study did not have a COVID-19 infection prior to being vaccinated, and received a full course of either Sinopharm’s BBIBP-CorV or Sinovac’s CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine. AILD patients were compared against a control group of 136 healthy participants. 

Scientists measured the antibody response in AILD patients compared to the control group. 97.4% of AILD patients and 100% of healthy people produced anti-RBD-IgG (an antibody against the spike protein receptor-binding domain of SARS-CoV-2) after vaccination. However, AILD patients taking immunosuppressants had significantly lower levels of anti-RBD-IgG. 

Similarly, neutralizing antibodies (antibodies that neutralize the biological effects of a virus, making it no longer capable of causing disease) were produced in smaller amounts in AILD patients. Only 63.2% of AILD patients produced neutralizing antibodies; 84.6% of people in the control group produced neutralizing antibodies. Researchers note that immunosuppressive drug therapy in AILD patients was responsible for the reduced number of neutralizing antibodies. 

“Regardless of immunosuppressants, the SARS-CoV-2-specific memory B cells responses were comparable between the AILD and [health controls].”

Observed adverse effects caused by the vaccination were mild, and included pain at the injection site. Symptoms resolved within days.

This study had a few limitations, including a small number of participants, lack of longitudinal antibody testing to assess changes in the antibody levels over time, and testing only at the part of the immune response. However, results still provide initial data regarding AILD patient responses to COVID-19 vaccination.