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Prevalence and clinical outcomes of COVID-19 in patients with autoimmune diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis


Objectives The prevalence and clinical outcomes of COVID-19 in patients with autoimmune diseases who are frequently treated with disease modifying therapies remains poorly understood. This meta-analysis aims to assess the prevalence and clinical outcomes of COVID-19 in autoimmune diseases.

Methods Electronic databases were searched for observational and case–controlled studies. We sorted medications into glucocorticoids, conventional synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (csDMARDs) and biologic or targeted synthetic DMARDs (b/tsDMARDs), which was also divided into monotherapy and b/tsDMARDs–csDMARDs combination therapy.

Results We analysed 62 observational studies with a total of 319 025 patients with autoimmune diseases. The prevalence of COVID-19 was 0.011 (95% CI: 0.005 to 0.025). Meta-analysis of seven case–controlled studies demonstrated that the risk of COVID-19 in autoimmune diseases was significantly higher than in control patients (OR: 2.19, 95% CI: 1.05 to 4.58, p=0.038). Meta-regression analysis showed glucocorticoids were significantly associated with the risk of COVID-19. For clinical outcomes, we assessed 65 studies with 2766 patients with autoimmune diseases diagnosed with COVID-19. The rates of hospitalisation and mortality were 0.35 (95% CI: 0.23 to 0.50) and 0.066 (95% CI: 0.036 to 0.12), respectively. Glucocorticoids, csDMARDs and b/tsDMARDs–csDMARDs combination therapy increased the risk of these outcomes, whereas b/tsDMARDs monotherapy, particularly antitumour necrosis factor agents, were associated with a lower risk of hospitalisation and death.

Conclusions Our meta-analysis demonstrated that patients with autoimmune diseases had an increased risk of COVID-19, primarily attributed to glucocorticoid use. b/tsDMARDs monotherapy was associated with a lower risk of severe COVID-19 suggesting its safety in the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • autoimmune diseases
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • systemic lupus erythematosus
  • biological therapy
  • psoriasis
  • inflammatory bowel disease

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