Acute post-COVID-19 infection increases the risk of new-onset autoimmune disease

According to a recent study published in Clinical Rheumatology, patients with COVID-19 have a 43% higher chance of developing new autoimmune disorders in the 3 to 15 months after an acute infection. 

Dr. Tesch and colleagues used routine patient healthcare information from Germany to conduct a matched cohort research to investigate the risk for new-onset autoimmune disease development following acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. The study assessed the prevalence of new autoimmune disorders in both patients previously exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and those who had not been exposed. By comparing the incidence rates (IR) in the COVID-19 (IR=15.05) and matching control groups (IR=10.55) in 641,704 patients with COVID-19, experts noted that COVID-19 patients had a 42.63% higher chance of developing autoimmunity. This estimate was comparable for prevalent autoimmune conditions such as Sjögren syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto thyroiditis. The autoimmune disorders in the vasculitis group had the highest IR ratios. Patients with a more severe COVID-19 course were more likely to develop an autoimmune illness incidentally. After the acute phase of infection, SARS-CoV-2 infection is linked to an elevated incidence of new-onset autoimmune disorders. 

Another recent retrospective cohort study published by Dr. Peng and his team noted that COVID-19 is linked to an increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases and the risk can be attenuated through COVID-19 vaccination. There were 3,168,467 non-COVID participants and 1,028,721 COVID-19 participants in the study. Patients with COVID-19 had a higher risk of pernicious anaemia (adjusted Hazard Ratio (aHR): 1.72), spondyloarthritis (aHR: 1.32), rheumatoid arthritis (aHR: 1.29 (95% CI: 1.09-1.54)), other autoimmune arthritis (aHR: 1.43), psoriasis (aHR: 1.42), pemphigoid (aHR: 239); Graves’ disease (aHR: 1.30); anti-phospholipid antibody syndrome (aHR: 2.12); immune mediated thrombocytopenia (aHR: 2.1); multiple sclerosis (aHR: 2.66); and vasculitis (aHR: 1.46). In a recent study published in Nature Reviews Rheumatology, experts analyzed data regarding the incidence of autoimmune disorders during the post-acute phase of COVID-19 and identified an increased risk of autoimmune diseases. 

COVID-19 vaccination has demonstrated its potential to lower the occurrence of pemphigoid, Graves’ disease, antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, systemic lupus erythematosus, and other autoimmune arthritis among COVID-19 patients following the administration of two doses. These findings underscore the importance of widespread vaccination efforts in mitigating not only the acute impact of the virus but also its potential long-term consequences on autoimmune health. 

To gain deeper insights into the mechanisms behind these observations, further research into underlying pathologies and immune responses is warranted. This research could pave the way for more targeted interventions and therapies for individuals who have experienced COVID-19. 

To learn more on COVID-19 and autoimmune diseases, read our previous news on, Is COVID-19 linked to the development of autoimmune disease? Expert’s answer 

References 

  1. Tesch F, Ehm F, Vivirito A, Wende D, Batram M, Loser F, et al. Incident autoimmune diseases in association with SARS-CoV-2 infection: a matched cohort study. Clinical Rheumatology. 2023 Jun 19:1-0. 
  2. Peng K, Li X, Yang D, Chan SC, Zhou J, Wan EY, et al. Risk of autoimmune diseases following COVID-19 and the potential protective effect from vaccination: a population-based cohort study. Eclinicalmedicine. 2023 Sep 1;63. 

 

 

  

  

 

 

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