BETHESDA, Md. -- Today the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation announced data from a collaborative, international effort to understand the impact of COVID-19 on people with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that impacts the lungs and other organs. The manuscript, published in the Journal of Cystic Fibrosis, reports on 40 people with CF across eight countries and represents the most detailed information to date on how COVID-19 impacts this high-risk population.
The publication suggests that people with CF may have a lower incidence of COVID-19 than the general public, potentially due to the CF community's strict adherence to physical distancing and other infection control measures. The rate of infection for people with CF seen in participating countries is about half the levels of the general population (0.07 percent in people with CF compared to 0.15 percent in the general population).
“The international cystic fibrosis community has moved with exceptional speed to establish a mechanism for rapid learning about COVID-19 and CF,” said Bruce Marshall, MD, chief medical officer of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and an author of the paper. “It is critical to understand the specific risks this novel virus poses to people with CF given that chronic lung disease among the general population is associated with severe complications and poor outcomes.”
He added, “We are encouraged that these early data do not paint a worst-case scenario for people with CF, but continued vigilance is needed as we continue to learn about SARS-CoV-2 alongside the broader scientific community.”
Data are early, but encouraging
Of the 40 cases collected between Feb. 1 and April 13, 2020 reported in the manuscript, 31 people with CF had symptoms of COVID-19 when they were tested, and 24 people had a fever. Thirteen patients needed oxygen and one patient required invasive ventilatory support. Seventy percent (28 cases) had recovered at the time the data were reported, including two of the four that were admitted to intensive care.
The CF Foundation is monitoring COVID-19 cases in the U.S. through the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Patient Registry, which includes more than 30,000 people with CF -- nearly the entire population of people with CF in the U.S. -- and gathers data from a network of 133 care centers across the country. Nineteen additional cases have been identified in the U.S. since the manuscript was submitted, bringing the total known cases of COVID-19 in people with CF in the U.S. to 25 as of April 29, 2020. To date, one death due to COVID-19 has been reported in the Registry.
Continued precautions are encouraged for people with CF
People with CF are considered a high-risk group by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and are encouraged to stay home as much as possible to reduce their risk of exposure. The CDC also recommends that high-risk groups stock up on needed supplies; avoid crowds and take precautions to keep space between themselves and others when out in public; and clean hands often by washing with soap and water.
While there are many plans under discussion for relaxing physical distancing measures in different cities and states, people with CF and their families may need to practice physical distancing for longer than the general population. The CF Foundation strongly encourages people with CF to maintain these precautions, particularly considering evidence may suggest these measures are proving effective.
About the study
The paper, A Multinational Report to Characterise SARS-CoV-2 Infection in People with Cystic Fibrosis, includes case studies from eight countries: Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, UK and U.S. (New Zealand reported zero cases.) The full manuscript is available online.
About the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is the world's leader in the search for a cure for cystic fibrosis. The Foundation funds more CF research than any other organization, and nearly every CF drug available today was made possible because of Foundation support. Based in Bethesda, Md., the Foundation also supports and accredits a national care center network that has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health as a model of care for a chronic disease. The CF Foundation is a donor-supported nonprofit organization. For more information, visit cff.org.