In a new study, researchers found that the COVID-19 infection incidence has been low in people with rheumatic diseases, and most of those infected experience a mild course of illness.
Additionally, fatalities have been low among rheumatic disease patients infected with COVID-19.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Texas.
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
As the COVID-19 pandemic surged worldwide in early 2020, the risk of serious infection, complications, or fatality was unknown for people with rheumatic disease.
Many patients with rheumatic disease are treated with immunosuppressant medications that leave them more susceptible to infection.
As the pandemic began, it was unclear how people with rheumatic diseases, on immunosuppressant therapy, were affected by a COVID-19 infection.
Some early studies even suggested that these drugs could have a protective effect, but concerns remained about the vulnerability of this patient population.
To learn more, researchers conducted a systematic review of studies that reported outcomes of COVID-19 infection among patients with rheumatic diseases who were taking biologic and targeted therapies.
They searched relevant studies from January to June 2020 that reported the outcomes of COVID-19 among patients with rheumatic disease.
The final review included 6,095 patients with rheumatic diseases from eight observational cohort studies, with 28% having rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and 7% having psoriatic arthritis (PsA).
Of the 6,095 patients, only 123 or 2% were positive or highly suspicious for COVID-19.
Across all the studies used for the review, 68% of COVID-19 patients were taking biologics, with 31% taking anti-TNF drugs and 6% taking JAK inhibitors.
Among those patients who were infected with the coronavirus, 91 or 73% were never hospitalized. Thirteen patients who were hospitalized required admission to an ICU and four patients died.
The researchers are waiting for additional extensive studies that include more patients with the rheumatic disease on biologic and targeted therapies.
Another area of interest is examining risk factors for severe COVID-19 infection in patients with rheumatic disease.
They hope this can help us identify which patients to closely monitor and possibly develop precautions to mitigate their risk.
One author of the study is Akhil Sood, MD, an internal medicine resident in the rheumatology Medical Branch in Galveston.
The study was presented at ACR Convergence, the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting.
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