Saturday, December 24, 2022

Post-COVID Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects 9-23% of the global population. While the exact cause of IBS is unknown, it is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. One potential trigger of IBS is infectious illness. Studies have shown that between 3% and 36% of enteric infections can lead to the development of new IBS symptoms, with post-viral IBS being more transient than post-bacterial or post-protozoal IBS. Meta-analysis of published literature found that the incidence of new IBS 12 months after infection was 10.1% (95% confidence interval (CI) 7.2–14.1). The incidence appears higher after parasitic or protozoan infections at 49% compared to 13.8% after bacterial gastroenteritis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the potential link between infections and IBS, as many patients with COVID-19 have developed gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort. In fact, infection of the GI tract is thought to trigger symptoms in approximately 15% of COVID-19 patients. Post-COVID-vaccination gastrointestinal occurrences were reported in 10–20% of cases and the risk of a disease flare in IBS and IBD patients was close to 10%. 

Persistent symptoms after SARS-COV-2 infection, known as Post-acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) or long-COVID, may occur in anywhere from 10-55% of those who have had COVID-19, New study found that the most common new diagnoses caused by Long Covid were tachycardia, followed by Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and IBS.

This chart shows the 0roportion of individuals diagnosed with various conditions by severity of mobility disability. Red are cardiopulmonary diagnoses (AF - atrial fibrillation, Blood Clot, Cardiomyopathy, Pericarditis, PE – pulmonary embolism, POTS – postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, Myocarditis, Tachycardia), light green are gastrointestinal (Irritable Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome), blue-green are neurologic diagnoses (MS – multiple sclerosis, ME – myaligic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, PN – peripheral neuropathy, Stroke), and dark green are metabolic/renal diagnoses (AKD - acute kidney disease, Hyperthyroid, Hypothyroid, Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes). A little over 3% of IBS sufferers do not feel disabled, while over 10% are severely disabled.  

There are several risk factors for the development of PI-IBS, including female gender, previous antibiotic treatment, anxiety, depression, somatization, neuroticism, and clinical indicators of intestinal inflammation. A history of Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) may also increase the risk of PI-IBS by up to 25%. Underlying possible mechanisms include ongoing increased permeability, abnormal serotonin metabolism, and ongoing chronic immune activation together with altered microbiota. 


Chan WW, Grover M. The COVID-19 Pandemic and Postinfection Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What Lies Ahead for Gastroenterologists. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2022 Aug 6. 

Gabashvili IS. The Incidence and Effect of Adverse Events Due to COVID-19 Vaccines on Breakthrough Infections: Decentralized Observational Study with Underrepresented Groups. JMIR Formative Research. 2022 Nov 4;6(11):e41914. doi: 10.2196/41914. PMID: 36309347; PMCID: PMC9640199.

Ghoshal UC. Postinfection irritable bowel syndrome. Gut and Liver. 2022 May 5;16(3):331.

Lau B, Wentz E, Ni Z, Yenokyan K, Coggiano C, Mehta SH, Duggal P. Physical and mental health disability associated with long-COVID: Baseline results from a US nationwide cohort. medRxiv. 2022 Dec. 7

Lau B, Wentz E, Ni Z, Yenokyan K, Coggiano C, Mehta SH, Duggal P. Physical and mental health disability associated with long-COVID: Baseline results from a US nationwide cohort. medRxiv. 2022 Jan 1.

Nazarewska A, Lewandowski K, Kaniewska M, RosoĊ‚owski M, Marlicz W, Rydzewska G. Irritable bowel syndrome following COVID-19: underestimated consequence of infection with SARS-CoV-2. Polish archives of internal medicine.:16323.

Spiller R, Garsed K. Postinfectious irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterology. 2009 May 1;136(6):1979-88.

Thabane M, Marshall JK. Post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG. 2009 Aug 8;15(29):3591.