New research has found that people with rare autoimmune rheumatic diseases (including vasculitis) are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and of COVID-19-related death. The findings demonstrate the urgent need to understand the effectiveness of the vaccines among people with these diseases.
Experts found that people with these conditions were 54% more likely to test positive for a COVID-19 infection, and death related to COVID-19 was 2.4 times more likely than for people in the general population (taking their age into account).
The findings, currently published as a pre-print, are the work of a team of doctors and researchers from RECORDER (Registration of Complex Rare Diseases Exemplars in Rheumatology), which is a joint project between the University of Nottingham, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the National Disease Registration Service at Public Health England.
Research from the team earlier this year, showed that people with rare autoimmune rheumatic diseases such as vasculitis, lupus, scleroderma, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, myositis and Behcet’s disease were more likely to die, from any cause, during the first two months of the pandemic. However, they were not sure why this was happening.
In this latest study, the team looked at nearly 170,000 people in England with rare autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Between March and July 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in England, they found:
- 1,874 people (1.11%) had COVID-19 infection (PCR test positive).
- Taking age into account, the infection rate in people with rare autoimmune rheumatic diseases was 54% higher than in the general population.
- The increased infection rate occurred despite shielding policies.
- 713 (0.42%) people living with rare autoimmune rheumatic disease died related to COVID-19 infection
- COVID-19 related death was 2.4 times more common in people with rare autoimmune rheumatic disease compared to the general population (taking age and sex into account)
There was no evidence of an increase in deaths from other causes, such as heart attacks, during the time period studied, although it may be too early to see any negative effects of the pandemic on the wider healthcare system.
“COVID-19 infection, hospitalisation and death Amongst People with Rare Autoimmune Rheumatic Disease in England. Results from the RECORDER Project.”
Megan Rutter, Peter C Lanyon, Matthew J Grainge, Richard Hubbard, Emily Peach, Mary Bythell, Peter Stilwell, Jeanette Ashton, Sarah Stevens, Fiona A Pearce
2020.10.09.20210237; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.17.21260846
The RECORDER project (Registration of Complex Rare Diseases Exemplars in Rheumatology) is a joint initiative between the University of Nottingham and the National Disease Registration Service at Public Health England.
This project was part funded by Vasculitis UK.