Research funded by our BRC has found that black and Asian patients are more likely to have poor outcomes from COVID-19 – but for different reasons.

Minority ethnic group patients are more likely to have poor outcomes from COVID-19. However, the reasons for this are not understood.

Headshot of Professor Ajay ShahProfessor Ajay Shah, BHF Professor of Cardiology at King’s College London and our Cardiovascular Theme Lead. He said: “The finding that Black versus Asian patients are affected in quite different ways, and that significant risk persists even after adjustment for deprivation and long-term health conditions, is striking. It strongly suggests that other factors, possibly biological, are important and that we may need different treatment strategies for different ethnic groups. For Black patients, the issue may be how to prevent mild infection progressing to severe whereas for Asian patients it may be how to treat life-threatening complications.”

The study analysed data from 1,827 adults admitted to King’s College Hospital with COVID-19 between 1 March and 2 June 2020.

872 of these patients were from inner London. They compared outcomes for these patients with 3,488 matched controls living in the same area  who had not been in hospital with COVID-19. Matching the patients adjusted for other factors such as comorbidities, deprivation and the local rates of infection.

The analysis showed that, after adjusting for other factors, people of Black and Mixed ethnicity were 2.2 to 2.7 times more likely to need hospital admission once infected with COVID-19 compared to White residents. However, in-hospital survival for these patients was not significantly different from White patients.

By contrast, Asian patients did not have a higher risk of requiring hospital admission with COVID-19 than white patients. But their in-hospital death rate and need for intensive care unit admission was higher than the other groups.

The analysis was published in EClinical Medicine, and funded by our BRC and the British Heart Foundation. The results of this study are likely to be applicable across the whole of London and similar UK cities. More research is needed to translate to multi-ethnic populations in other countries.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England and Head of the NIHR, said: “The evidence is now clear that people from Black and minority ethnic groups are more severely affected by COVID-19. This NIHR-supported research shows how different groups are affected, providing important information to help healthcare professionals offer the best possible treatment to minority ethnic patients.”

Professor Matt Brown, director of the NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ BRC, said: “Understanding the reasons that minority ethnic group patients are more likely to be very ill with COVID-19 is vital. Once we know the reasons for the disparity, we can target interventions to improve outcomes for patients. We’re pleased to have supported research that can help with this goal.”