Can Vitiligo Protect Against the SARS-CoV-2 Virus?

June 8. 2021

The Amsterdam Institute for Infection and Immunity has released a research proposal hypothesizing that non-segmental vitiligo, an autoimmune skin disorder, may protect against the SARS-CoV-2 virus developing into a COVID-19 infection.

The researchers hypothesize that vitiligo could lower the risk for COVID-19 development and clear the viral infection more efficiently. “Conversely, in case of COVID-19 development, vitiligo autoimmunity may influence the cytokine storm-related disease burden.” There is also a potential for a COVID-19 infection to increase vitiligo flare-ups, or increase the activity of the autoimmune condition. Read more about the influence of cytokine storms in the development of autoimmune disease in our article. 

Protection against COVID-19 relies on both innate and adaptive immunity. Patients with vitiligo display both adaptive and innate immune responses which, according to the study’s researchers, can result in clearing COVID-19 infections. To test this hypothesis, the researchers propose reviewing patient data registries while also employing a questionnaire study amongst patients with vitiligo and controls. Participants will range from ages 16-55, and the study will account for gender differences and co-morbidities with other autoimmune diseases in its analysis. “Since the history of autoimmune co-morbidities of both vitiligo patients and controls is also collected, we can subsequently determine the effect of other frequently found autoimmune diseases on COVID-19 disease development and severity.”

Due to the high prevalence of vitiligo worldwide, the study will be conducted internationally.