Is COVID-19 linked to the development of autoimmune disease? Expert’s answer

Researchers who recently examined the data on the prevalence of autoimmune diseases during the post-acute COVID-19 phase have found an increased risk for autoimmune diseases in a study published in Nature Reviews Rheumatology.

Chetan Sharma and Jagadeesh Bayry evaluated the data from two large-scale cohort studies, using participants’ electronic medical records. One of the cohort studies, conducted by Chang et al., utilized the TriNetX health research network, which includes six million individuals from 48 health organizations worldwide. Within this study, there were 887,455 recipients of the COVID-19 vaccination in both the SARS-CoV-2-infected and uninfected groups. Each of the SARS-CoV-2-infected and uninfected groups had 887,455 recipients of the COVID-19 vaccination. The incidence of autoimmune diseases following COVID-19 was assessed between January 1 and December 31, 2021. The results showed that at six months of follow-up, there were significantly higher incidences of systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease in SARS-CoV-2-infected individuals. The adjusted hazard ratios (aHR) for these diseases were 2.99, 2.98, 1.96, 2.68, and 1.78, respectively.

In a yet-to-be-published study, Tesch et al. investigated the risks of autoimmune diseases in 640,701 unvaccinated individuals who had confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections in 2020, as determined by PCR testing. By comparing them to nearly one million uninfected individuals matched by age and sex, the researchers found that COVID-19 patients had a 43% higher likelihood of developing autoimmune disorders within three to 15 months after infection. Among all autoimmune illnesses, vasculitis showed the highest incidence rate ratio (IRR) values. Additionally, the study revealed that individuals with a history of autoimmune disorders had a 23.0% increased chance of developing another autoimmune illness if they contracted COVID-19. These findings strongly suggest a temporal correlation between COVID-19 and the heightened risk of autoimmune disease development.

The temporal correlation with COVID-19 history offers solid and convincing evidence that COVID-19 is connected to increased risks of autoimmune disease development. Future research on the subject must be conducted by health agencies and governments to collect data from throughout the nation and broaden the applicability of the study’s conclusion.

References

  1. Sharma C, Bayry J. High risk of autoimmune diseases after COVID-19. Nature Reviews Rheumatology. 2023 Apr 12:1-2.
  2. Chang R, Chen TY, Wang SI, Hung YM, Chen HY, Wei CC. Risk of autoimmune diseases in patients with COVID-19: A retrospective cohort study. EClinicalMedicine. 2023 Feb 1;56:101783.
  3. Tesch F, Ehm F, Vivirito A, Wende D, Batram M, Loser F, Menzer S, Jacob J, Roessler M, Seifert M, Kind B. Incident autoimmune diseases in association with a SARS-CoV-2 infection: A matched cohort study (preprint).

 

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