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09-04-2021 | COVID-19 | News

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Researchers probe link between COVID-19 and autoimmunity

Claire Barnard

medwireNews: A large US study has evaluated the risk for developing incident rheumatic disease following a positive test for SARS-CoV-2.

Jeffrey Sparks (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and team compared rates of systemic rheumatic disease among 15,284 patients who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in January–November 2020 and the same number of age- and sex-matched individuals with a negative SARS-CoV-2 test.

As reported in a correspondence to The Lancet Rheumatology, there were six cases of systemic rheumatic disease in the COVID-19 group – one each of seronegative inflammatory arthritis, giant cell arteritis, dermatomyositis, antiphospholipid syndrome, seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, and primary Sjögren’s syndrome. Half of these patients were diagnosed within 1 week of a positive COVID-19 test, while the other half were diagnosed more than 2 months later.

In the control group, five patients developed a systemic rheumatic disease following a negative SARS-CoV-2 test, providing “an estimate of the background rate of systemic rheumatic disease development in a contemporaneous population who also presented for testing for SARS-CoV-2,” say Sparks and team.

Although the rates of incident rheumatic disease in the two groups were similar, the researchers note that almost all (n=4) rheumatic disease diagnoses in the control group were polymyalgia rheumatica, and suggest “[i]t is possible that some patients with non-specific early polymyalgia rheumatica symptoms were tested for SARS-CoV-2,” which may have biased the results towards having more rheumatic disease diagnoses in the control arm than would have been expected.

They conclude that “[f]urther research is needed to delineate potential links between COVID-19 and autoimmunity.”

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Ltd. © 2021 Springer Healthcare Ltd, part of the Springer Nature Group

9 April 2021: The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all healthcare professionals across the globe. Medicine Matters’ focus, in this difficult time, is the dissemination of the latest data to support you in your research and clinical practice, based on the scientific literature. We will update the information we provide on the site, as the data are published. However, please refer to your own professional and governmental guidelines for the latest guidance in your own country.

Lancet Rheumatol 2021; doi:10.1016/S2665-9913(21)00106-5

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