Research from Korea provides additional evidence for the connection between COVID-19 and an increased risk for autoimmune conditions post-infection.
In this retrospective study, researchers identified 354,527 individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing from October 8, 2020 to December 31, 2021.
Researchers compared the COVID-19 group to 6,134,940 healthy individuals who had no evidence of COVID-19 to quantify the risk for autoimmune and autoinflammatory connective tissue disorders.
Patients were followed until diagnosis, death, or end of study period (December 31, 2021).
Risks for alopecia areata, alopecia totalis, antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)–associated vasculitis, Crohn’s disease, and sarcoidosis were higher in the COVID-19 group.
Patients with more severe COVID-19 (admitted to the ICU) were at greater risk for many autoimmune conditions, including alopecia totalis, psoriasis, vitiligo, and vasculitis.
“Our results emphasize the need to focus on managing not only the acute stages of COVID-19 itself but also autoimmune diseases as complications of COVID-19,” the authors write.
Sung Ha Lim, MD, of the Yonsei University Wonju College of Medicine in Wonju, Korea, was the first author of the study, published in JAMA Network Open on October 6.
The study was retrospective and was comprised almost exclusively of individuals from a single ethnicity. The study could have included individuals with COVID-19 in the control group who did not undergo PCR testing. The analysis did not include detailed information on each patient, including genetic information, that could have contributed to autoimmune disease risk.
The study was supported by a fund from the research program of the Korea Medical Institute and by grants from the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, the Korean Ministry of Health & Welfare, and the National Research Foundation of Korea. The authors disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
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