Possibility of deterioration of respiratory status when steroids precede antiviral drugs in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia: A retrospective study

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PLoS One. 2021 Sep 2;16(9):e0256977. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0256977. eCollection 2021.


INTRODUCTION: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Although most patients with COVID-19 develop asymptomatic or mild disease, some patients develop severe disease. The effectiveness of various therapeutic agents, including antiviral drugs, steroids, and anti-inflammatories for COVID-19, have been being confirmed. The effect of administering steroids in early disease is unclear. This study therefore aimed to evaluate the effectiveness and risk of exacerbation of steroids administered preceding antiviral drugs in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia.

METHODS: This retrospective, single-center, observational study included consecutive patients with COVID-19 between March 2020 and March 2021. Patients were divided into a steroids-first group and antiviral-drugs-first group. Mortality, duration of hospitalization, incidence rate and duration of intensive care unit (ICU) admission, intubation, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) induction of the two groups were compared.

RESULTS: A total of 258 patients were admitted during the study period. After excluding patients who received symptomatic treatment only, who were taking immunosuppressive drugs, or who were administered antiviral drugs only, 68 patients were included in the analysis, 16 in the steroids-first group and 52 in the antiviral-drugs-first group. The rate of intubation, ICU admission and ECMO induction were significantly higher in the steroids-first group than in the antiviral-drugs-first group (81.3% vs. 33.3, p<0.001, 75.0% vs. 29.4%, p = 0.001, and 31.3% vs. 7.8%, p = 0.017, respectively). Furthermore, patients who received steroids within ten days after starting antiviral drugs had significantly lower rates of ICU admission, intubation, and ECMO induction. (81.3% vs. 42.9% p = 0.011, 75.0% vs. 37.1% p = 0.012, and 31.3% vs. 8.6% p = 0.039, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Administering steroids prior to antiviral drugs soon after symptom onset can aggravate disease severity. When administration of steroids is considered soon after symptom onset, it may be safer to initiate antiviral drugs first.

PMID:34473766 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0256977

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