Kidney transplant recipients and those with kidney failure face a high risk of dying from COVID-19, a new analysis finds.

Researchers from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York looked at nearly 325,000 people who had undergone a kidney transplant or were on the waiting list and compared death rates from 2020 to 2019.

They found that 16 percent of deaths - or about one in six - among transplant recipients in the U.S. in 2020 were due to COVID-19. 

What's more, more than one in 10 deaths of those who were candidates for a kidney transplant died from the virus.

Researchers looked at deaths among people who had undergone a kidney transplant or were on the waiting list in 2019 and 2020. Pictured: Medical professionals pronate a 39-year-old unvaccinated COVID-19 patient in the at St Luke's Boise Medical Center in Idaho, August 2021

Researchers looked at deaths among people who had undergone a kidney transplant or were on the waiting list in 2019 and 2020. Pictured: Medical professionals pronate a 39-year-old unvaccinated COVID-19 patient in the at St Luke's Boise Medical Center in Idaho, August 2021

More than one out of every 10 people, or 11%, who were on a waiting list died due to COVID-19

More than one out of every 10 people, or 11%, who were on a waiting list died due to COVID-19

Nearly one in six people, or 16%, of transplant recipients deaths were linked to the virus

Nearly one in six people, or 16%, of transplant recipients deaths were linked to the virus

'This is the first analysis of national level COVID-19–related mortality in transplant recipients and patients waitlisted for a kidney transplant,' said Dr Sumit Mohan, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology, at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, in a press release.

'There was a large increase in deaths among these susceptible individuals, with a disproportionate impact on minorities.' 

For the analysis, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, the team looked at national registry data for kidney transplant recipients and waitlisted candidates from January 1, 2020 through April 23, 2021.

Over this time period, 190,481 received a donor kidney and were on 134,948 were on the transplant waiting list.

Next, they looked at deaths in 2020 for both groups and compared the numbers with pre-pandemic mortality deaths in 2019. 

Among the waiting list candidates, there were 3,865 deaths in 2019 and 4,774 fatalities in 2020.

The researchers determined that 516 of those deaths were linked to COVID-19 meaning one out of every 10 people on a waiting list died due to the virus.

Those who died on the waiting list from COVID-19 were more likely to be male than those who died on the list from other causes at 72 percent compared to 65 percent. 

Additionally, 85 percent of all COVID-19 deaths on the waiting list were minorities compared to 60 percent of those who died from other causes.  

Only 15 percent of waitlist patients who died from the virus were white while 72 percent of deaths were among black or Hispanic candidates. 

When it came to kidney transplant recipients, there were 4,527 deaths in 2019 and 5,435 deaths in 2020.

A total of 839 of those deaths were linked to COVID-19 meaning nearly one out of every six transplant recipients died due to the virus.

For both waitlisted candidates and transplant recipients, white patients were more likely to die from non-Covid causes and Hispanic and black patients were more likely to die from Covid

For both waitlisted candidates and transplant recipients, white patients were more likely to die from non-Covid causes and Hispanic and black patients were more likely to die from Covid

Similarly, transplant patients who died were more likely to be from communities of color than Caucasian.

White recipients made up 54 percent of non-Covid deaths in 2020 and 59 percent in 2019 but just 30 percent of Covid deaths

Comparatively, Hispanic and black recipients made up 62 percent of Covid deaths but just 39 percent of non Covid deaths.  

Previous research have found an increased risk of death due to COVID-19 for patients with kidney problems.

study from October 2020 found those with kidney disease face three-fold higher risks of dying from COVID-19.

Researchers suspect that patients with kidney failure and those who recently had transplant both have weakened immune systems that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

This is especially true for transplant patients, who have to be on a lifetime course of immunosuppressant drugs. 

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