Incidence and predictors of COVID-19 and flares in patients with rare autoimmune diseases: a systematic survey and serological study at a national reference center in France

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Abstract

Background: The risk of severe COVID-19 and its determinants remain largely unknown in patients with autoimmune and inflammatory rheumatic diseases. The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 infection in patients followed for rare autoimmune diseases as well as the predictors of COVID-19 and disease flare-ups. Methods: Cross-sectional phone survey from April 9, 2020, to July 2, 2020, during which patients with autoimmune diseases followed at the National Reference Center for Rare Autoimmune diseases of Strasbourg were systematically contacted by phone and sent a prescription for a SARS-CoV-2 serology. Results: One thousand two hundred thirty-two patients were contacted. One thousand fifty-five patients with a confirmed diagnosis of systemic autoimmune disease were included (4 unreachable, 4 moves abroad, 5 deaths before pandemic, 50 without consent, and 114 without autoimmune disease). Among them, 469 (44.5%) patients were tested for SARS-CoV-2 serology. Thirty-nine patients (7.9%) had SARS-CoV-2 infection (either through chest CT-scan [n = 5], RT-PCR on nasopharyngeal swab [n = 14], or serology [n = 31]) among the 496 who underwent at least one of those 3 diagnosis modalities. Of the 39 proven cases, 33 had clinical manifestations (6 asymptomatic patients were diagnosed through systematic serology testing), 31 were managed by home care, 3 were hospitalized due to a need for oxygenation, two required admission to an intensive care unit, and one died. Among patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, reported flares were more frequent than in uninfected patients (26.3% [10/38] vs. 7.0% [32/457], p < 0.0001). Preventive sick leave had no significant impact on the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection (5.8% [3/53]) compared to work continuation (7.6% [30/397], p = 0.64). Overall, the seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 was 6.6% (31/469) which was numerically lower to the Grand-Est general population estimated to be 9.0%. Conclusions: This systematic survey of more than 1000 patients with rare systemic autoimmune diseases reports a low prevalence of proven SARS-CoV-2 infection and very rare severe infections, probably related to good compliance with prophylactic measures in these patients.

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Felten, R., Scherlinger, M., Guffroy, A., Poindron, V., Meyer, A., Giannini, M., … Arnaud, L. (2021). Incidence and predictors of COVID-19 and flares in patients with rare autoimmune diseases: a systematic survey and serological study at a national reference center in France. Arthritis Research and Therapy, 23(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13075-021-02565-0

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