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Original article

Vol. 151 No. 2930 (2021)

Near real-time observation reveals increased prevalence of young patients in the ICU during the emerging third SARS-CoV-2 wave in Switzerland

DOI
https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2021.20553
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2021;151:w20553
Published
21.07.2021

Abstract

AIMS OF THE STUDY

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the launch of a large-scale vaccination campaign and virus mutations have hinted at possible changes in transmissibility and the virulence affecting disease progression up to critical illness, and carry potential for future vaccination failure. To monitor disease development over time with respect to critically ill COVID-19 patients, we report near real-time prospective observational data from the RISC-19-ICU registry that indicate changed characteristics of critically ill patients admitted to Swiss intensive care units (ICUs) at the onset of a third pandemic wave.

METHODS

1829 of 3344 critically ill COVID-19 patients enrolled in the international RISC-19-ICU registry as of 31 May 2021 were treated in Switzerland and were included in the present study. Of these, 1690 patients were admitted to the ICU before 1 February 2021 and were compared with 139 patients admitted during the emerging third pandemic wave

RESULTS

Third wave patients were a mean of 5.2 years (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.2–7.1) younger (median 66.0 years, interquartile range [IQR] 57.0–73.0 vs 62.0 years, IQR 54.5–68.0; p <0.0001) and had a higher body mass index than patients admitted in the previous pandemic period. They presented with lower SAPS II and APACHE II scores, less need for circulatory support and lower white blood cell counts at ICU admission. P/F ratio was similar, but a 14% increase in ventilatory ratio was observed over time (p = 0.03)

CONCLUSION

Near real-time registry data show that the latest COVID-19 patients admitted to ICUs in Switzerland at the onset of the third wave were on average 5 years younger, had a higher body mass index, and presented with lower physiological risk scores but a trend towards more severe lung failure. These differences may primarily be related to the ongoing nationwide vaccination campaign, but the possibility that changes in virus-host interactions may be a co-factor in the age shift and change in disease characteristics is cause for concern, and should be taken into account in the public health and vaccination strategy during the ongoing pandemic. (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04357275)

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