Low birth weight triples the risk of suffering severe COVID-19 in patients under 70 years of age

A study coordinated by Clínic-IDIBAPS researchers, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that people aged between 18 and 70 years who were born weighing less than 2.5 kg have an up to 3-fold greater risk of being admitted to the ICU due to COVID-19.

Fàtima Crispi is the study’s lead author

Most patients under 70 years of age have very mild forms of COVID-19, but a small percentage suffers from severe complications for unknown reasons. A group of Clínic-IDIBAPS researchers undertook a study to determine the causes.

The study was coordinated by Dr. Fàtima Crispi, the senior specialist physician at the Hospital Clínic-BCNatal Maternal and Fetal Medicine Department and researcher of the IDIBAPS Fetal and perinatal medicine group and received support from the La Caixa Foundation and other entities.

“Thanks to our previous research, we know that having been born with low weight predisposes us to certain diseases in adult life, such as myocardial infarction, diabetes, and hypertension”, explained Fàtima Crispi. “The objective of the study was to determine whether having been born “small” is also a risk factor for developing severe COVID-19”.

A total of 397 patients aged between 18 and 70 years with COVID-19 who were attended at Hospital Clínic and were asked about their birth weight were enrolled in the study. Fifteen percent of the patients required admission to the ICU and the researchers were able to identify the following variables as independent risk factors for admission to the ICU: age, male sex, prior hypertension, and low birth weight. Regarding this last variable, it was found that being born with a low weight increased the risk of ending up in the ICU with severe COVID-19 by up to threefold.

Given the relevance of the finding, an attempt was made to validate the result in another cohort. To do this, an anonymous online survey was performed, which obtained data from 1822 adults (18-70 years of age) who reported having had COVID-19 with a positive PCR test, of whom 2.5% were admitted to the ICU. The same model was applied and validated, confirming the independent predictive value of low birth weight for requiring admission to the ICU due to COVID-19.

The study shows, therefore, that birth weight can improve early identification of patients at greater risk of suffering a severe form of COVID-19. “These results are totally new, and we believe that they are highly relevant, because they can help us to better identify patients under 70 years of age who are at greater risk with COVID-19 and to adapt treatment and management of the disease”, concluded Fàtima Crispi.

Article reference:

Low birth weight as a potential risk factor for severe COVID-19 in adults.

Crispi F, Crovetto F, Larroya M, Camacho M, Tortajada M, Sibila O, Badia JR, López M, Vellvé K, Garcia F, Trilla A, Faner R, Blanco I, Borràs R, Agustí A, Gratacós E. Sci Rep. 2021 Feb 3;11(1):2909. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-82389-9.