Researchers probe link between COVID-19 and autoimmunity
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
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