Common contributing factors to COVID-19 and inflammatory bowel disease

Ronald Neil Kostoff, Michael Brandon Briggs, Darja Kanduc, Darla Roye Shores, Leda Kovatsi, Alexander I. Vardavas, Alan L. Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The devastating complications of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) result from an individual's dysfunctional immune response following the initial severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. Multiple toxic stressors and behaviors contribute to underlying immune system dysfunction. SARS-CoV-2 exploits the dysfunctional immune system to trigger a chain of events ultimately leading to COVID-19. We have previously identified many contributing factors (CFs) (representing toxic exposure, lifestyle factors and psychosocial stressors) common to myriad chronic diseases. We hypothesized significant overlap between CFs associated with COVID-19 and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), because of the strong role immune dysfunction plays in each disease. A streamlined dot-product approach was used to identify potential CFs to COVID-19 and IBD. Of the fifty CFs to COVID-19 that were validated for demonstration purposes, approximately half had direct impact on COVID-19 (the CF and COVID-19 were mentioned in the same record; i.e., CF—→COVID-19), and the other half had indirect impact. The nascent character of the COVID-19 core literature (∼ one year old) did not allow sufficient time for the direct impacts of many CFs on COVID-19 to be identified. Therefore, an immune system dysfunction (ID) literature directly related to the COVID-19 core literature was used to augment the COVID-19 core literature and provide the remaining CFs that impacted COVID-19 indirectly (i.e., CF—→immune system dysfunction—→COVID-19). Approximately 13000 potential CFs for myriad diseases (obtained from government and university toxic substance lists) served as the starting point for the dot-product identification process. These phrases were intersected (dot-product) with phrases extracted from a PubMed-derived IBD core literature, a nascent COVID-19 core literature, and the COVID-19-related immune system dysfunction (ID) core literature to identify common ID/COVID-19 and IBD CFs. Approximately 3000 potential CFs common to both ID and IBD, almost 2300 potential CFs common to ID and COVID-19, and over 1900 potential CFs common to IBD and COVID-19 were identified. As proof of concept, we validated fifty of these ∼3000 overlapping ID/IBD candidate CFs with biologic plausibility. We further validated 24 of the fifty as common CFs in the IBD and nascent COVID-19 core literatures. This significant finding demonstrated that the CFs indirectly related to COVID-19 – identified with use of the immune system dysfunction literature – are strong candidates to emerge eventually as CFs directly related to COVID-19. As discussed in the main text, many more CFs common to all these core literatures could be identified and validated. ID and IBD share many common risk/contributing factors, including behaviors and toxic exposures that impair immune function. A key component to immune system health is removal of those factors that contribute to immune system dysfunction in the first place. This requires a paradigm shift from traditional Western medicine, which often focuses on treatment, rather than prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1616-1637
Number of pages22
JournalToxicology Reports
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Contributing factors
  • Coronavirus
  • Crohn's disease
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • LRDI
  • Pandemic
  • SARS-CoV
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Common contributing factors to COVID-19 and inflammatory bowel disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this