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Aug 24, 2021

COVID-19 patients with comorbidities have higher mortality rates

COVID-19 patients with comorbidities have higher mortality rates Identifying patients with a high risk of mortality can help in improving medical infrastructure to get better outcomes by reducing mortality rates. The average mortality rate among COVID-19 affected patients in India is around 8 per cent.

By Pushpita Dey · Aug 24, 2021

COVID-19 has taken a toll on the global health system. Despite the potential underreporting of deaths, particularly in low-income countries, various reports have confirmed that COVID-19 impacted mortality rates across the globe. 


Several social, economic, environmental, demographic, ethnic, cultural and health factors determine COVID-19 infection and mortality rates. Therefore, can data help scientists identify individuals at a higher risk of getting the infection and succumbing to COVID-19?  

The reputed science journal, Nature applied Machine Learning to electronic medical records to predict mortality rates among COVID patients. These records were collected from Apollo Hospital centres in India between April and October 2020.


Men, the elderly at a higher risk of succumbing to COVID-19


In India, more than 10 million individuals have been affected by COVID as of mid-January 2021), and over 150 thousand people have died accounting for a mortality rate of around 1.44 per cent. 


In two different samples considered for the study, the average observed mortality rate was reported around 8 per cent. Men, in comparison to women, and the elderly (aged 60+) in comparison to younger groups, observed mortality rates. 


Males in the study sample recorded a hazard ratio of 1.72. A ratio above 1 suggests an increased risk of mortality, thus signifying a higher risk of COVID-related mortality among men.




Higher mortality rates among the elderly were also observed in an analysis published in the Lancet. The study reported that the COVID-related mortality rate among those aged 80+ years was 15 per cent higher than those in the age group 0-39 years. 



Factors affecting COVID mortality


Comorbidities or pre-existing health conditions contribute largely to the mortality rates among COVID patients. Among people with at least one comorbidity, mortality is estimated to be 5.1-6.4 per cent compared to 0.5 - 0.8 per cent without any comorbidities.


These comorbidities are likely to be more prevalent in developing countries, finds a report by the National Centenformation. The prevalence of diabetes, comorbidity that affects COVID mortality is 10.6 per cent in developing countries such as India compared to 8.5 per cent in England and other developed countries including England. Chronic respiratory diseases are estimated to have a prevalence of 4.8 per cent in developing countries and 2.5 per cent in developed countries. 



An imbalance in lactate dehydrogenase, chronic liver disease, kidney disease and oxygen saturation were other comorbidities that increased mortality risk among Indians. 

A low Lymphocyte percentage particularly contributed to higher mortality, along with respiratory symptoms like distress, higher rate of respiration or silent hypoxemia. 



The study is a landmark in applying predictive modelling to understand COVID mortality. However, insufficient data on comorbidities and other medical information on patients is arguably the primary challenge in building models. Better record-keeping and digitization can help scientists leverage machine learning to better study diseases, particularly outbreaks and pandemics that require immediate policy action.  


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