Autoimmunity & COVID: Are You More at Risk?

February 7, 2022

Researchers in Italy studied whether autoimmunity increased the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in patients not taking immunosuppressive drugs. Researchers contacted 400 patients for phone interviews, 100 each with the following autoimmune diseases: autoimmune gastritis, celiac disease, autoimmune thyroid disease (both Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), and Type 1 diabetes. Patients with more than one autoimmune diseases and those on immunosuppressants and biologics were excluded. All patients with autoimmune gastritis were on B12 supplements, those with celiac disease had been on a gluten-free diet for one year (at least), T1 diabetes patients were on insulin therapy, and those with autoimmune thyroid disease were either on hormone replacement therapy or anti-thyroid drugs.

235 patients had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the time of the study. This “is in line with the Italian situation, which prioritized elderly patients and those with T1D, regardless of the presence/absence of complications.” Positive COVID-19 test results were reported in 33 patients, which is comparable to the general population of the area in which the study took place. Only 3 of the 33 patients required hospitalization, while 8 were asymptomatic, and 22 had mild symptoms. No deaths were recorded.

Overall, researchers found that autoimmunity does not increase the risk of COVID-19 infection. It should be noted that 400 patients is a relatively small sample size, and that the patients included in the study were mostly young adults. That being said, patients spanned the first and second waves of the pandemic, which is a notable amount of time.