Increase in Autoimmune and Autoinflammatory Disorders Post-COVID

New research from South Korea, published in JAMA Network Open, has revealed that individuals who have been infected with COVID-19 have a significantly higher risk of developing autoimmune and autoinflammatory connective-tissue disorders such as alopecia, Crohn's disease, psoriasis, and vitiligo. However, the study also found that vaccination can lower this risk.

The study analyzed data from over 350,000 COVID-19 patients between October 2020 and December 2021, comparing them with a control group of more than 6.1 million individuals. The researchers noted that certain disease risks were positively associated with the severity of COVID-19. They believe that the SARS-CoV-2 virus may disrupt self-tolerance and trigger autoimmune reactions, leading to the development of autoimmune diseases.

According to the University of Minnesota's CIDRAP, COVID-19 patients had significantly higher risks of alopecia areata, alopecia totalis, antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis, Crohn's disease, and sarcoidosis. Additionally, the risks of several other disorders, including psoriasis, vitiligo, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis, increased with COVID-19 severity.

The authors of the study highlighted the potential long-term health effects associated with COVID-19 and recommended that the evaluation of autoimmune and autoinflammatory connective tissue disorders be included in the long-term management of patients who had COVID-19.

It's important to note that there are some limitations to the study. The sample primarily consisted of adults of Asian ethnicity, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to other ethnic groups and adolescents/children. Furthermore, the researchers were unable to determine susceptibility differences to autoimmunity among individuals.