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Prevalence of hospital PCR-confirmed COVID-19 cases in patients with chronic inflammatory and autoimmune rheumatic diseases


Background The susceptibility of patients with rheumatic diseases and the risks or benefits of immunosuppressive therapies for COVID-19 are unknown.

Methods We performed a retrospective study with patients under follow-up in rheumatology departments from seven hospitals in Spain. We matched updated databases of rheumatology patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2-positive PCR tests performed in the hospital to the same reference populations. Rates of PCR+ confirmed COVID-19 were compared among groups.

Results Patients with chronic inflammatory diseases had 1.32-fold higher prevalence of hospital PCR+ COVID-19 than the reference population (0.76% vs 0.58%). Patients with systemic autoimmune or immune-mediated disease (AI/IMID) showed a significant increase, whereas patients with inflammatory arthritis (IA) or systemic lupus erythematosus did not. COVID-19 cases in some but not all diagnostic groups had older ages than cases in the reference population. Patients with IA on targeted-synthetic or biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), but not those on conventional-synthetic DMARDs, had a greater prevalence despite a similar age distribution.

Conclusion Patients with AI/IMID show a variable risk of hospital-diagnosed COVID-19. Interplay of ageing, therapies and disease-specific factors seem to contribute. These data provide a basis to improve preventive recommendations to rheumatic patients and to analyse the specific factors involved in COVID-19 susceptibility.

  • arthritis
  • autoimmune diseases
  • epidemiology
  • biological therapy

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