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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

versão On-line ISSN 2078-5135
versão impressa ISSN 0256-9574


JASSAT, W et al. Undiagnosed comorbidities among individuals hospitalised with COVID-19 in South African public hospitals. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2022, vol.112, n.9, pp.747-752. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND: Previous studies have reported comorbid disease, including hypertension, diabetes mellitus, chronic cardiac and renal disease, malignancy, HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and obesity, to be associated with COVID-19 mortality. National demographic surveys have reported a high proportion of undiagnosed and untreated comorbid disease in South Africa (SA OBJECTIVES: To determine the number of individuals with previously undiagnosed HIV, TB and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among patients hospitalised with COVID-19, and the level of medical control of these chronic diseases METHODS: We conducted a sentinel surveillance study to collect enhanced data on HIV, TB and NCDs among individuals with COVID-19 admitted to 16 secondary-level public hospitals in six of the nine provinces of SA. Trained surveillance officers approached all patients who met the surveillance case definition for inclusion in the study, and consenting patients were enrolled. The data collection instrument included questions on past medical history to determine the self-reported presence of comorbidities. The results of clinical and laboratory testing introduced as part of routine clinical care for hospitalised COVID-19 patients were collected for the study, to objectively determine the presence of hypertension, diabetes, HIV and TB and the levels of control of diabetes and HIV RESULTS: On self-reported history, the most prevalent comorbidities were hypertension (n=1 658; 51.5%), diabetes (n=855; 26.6%) and HIV (n=603; 18.7%). The prevalence of self-reported active TB was 3.1%, and that of previous TB 5.5%. There were 1 254 patients admitted with COVID-19 (39.0%) who met the body mass index criteria for obesity. On clinical and laboratory testing, 87 patients were newly diagnosed with HIV, 29 with TB, 215 with diabetes and 40 with hypertension during their COVID-19 admission. There were 151/521 patients living with HIV (29.0%) with a viral load >1 000 copies/mL and 309/570 (54.2%) with a CD4 count <200 cells/μL. Among 901 patients classified as having diabetes, 777 (86.2%) had a glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) level >6.5% CONCLUSION: The study revealed a high prevalence of comorbid conditions among individuals with COVID-19 admitted to public hospitals in SA. In addition, a significant number of patients had previously undiagnosed hypertension, diabetes, HIV and active TB, and many had poorly controlled chronic disease, as evidenced by high HbA1c levels in patients with diabetes, and high viral loads and low CD4 levels in patients with HIV. The findings highlight the importance of strengthening health systems and care cascades for chronic disease management, which include prevention, screening for and effectively treating comorbidities, and ensuring secure and innovative supplies of medicines in primary healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic

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