Certain treatments used for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) may boost the immune response provided by COVID-19 vaccines.

A blanket term of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, IBD is characterized by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract and is usually treated with medications, like anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) medicines, to manage the symptoms.

Two recent studies published in IBD and Frontiers in Immunology revealed that the medications might have a positive effect on the body’s response to the COVID-19 vaccine.

More specifically, the treatments can help the T-cells that aid in how the body responds to and fights infections.

Both studies involved participants with IBD who already received vaccinations for COVID-19. The researchers examined the response of their T-cells.

The study published in IBD found that participants who take anti-TNF medications had enhanced T-cell responses.

Meanwhile, the study published in Frontiers in Immunology found that the participants had a much higher T-cell receptor response after getting COVID vaccination than before getting it. Furthermore, the researchers observed that the type of T-cell response depended on the kind of anti-TNF medication. More specifically, participants taking adalimumab developed a strong response.

“These new studies were a surprise because they indicated that anti-TNF increases T-cells, the other part of the vaccine response which eradicates [the] virus once it has established infection. This is important because the T-cell response reduces disease severity and the risk of hospitalization or death,” said Dr. Jonathan G. Braun, a study author affiliated with Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

According to Braun, prior studies have shown that anti-TNF medicines could reduce the antibody response to COVID vaccines, protecting against initial infection. However, the latest findings indicated otherwise.

Both studies had limitations. The IBD study focused only on participants with IBD and lacked important racial diversity. On the other hand, the study in Frontiers in Immunology said there could be a difference in the immune response from the vaccine versus actual infection from the COVID-19 virus.

The authors stated that their findings emphasized the importance of looking at more than antibody response when it comes to groups with specific disorders like IBD.