Risk of Developing Autoimmune Disease Following COVID-19 Infection

May 1, 2023

A recent study exploring the association between COVID-19 infection and the risk of developing autoimmune diseases was published in the EClinicalMedicine journal. The retrospective cohort study was conducted by a team of researchers from various institutions in Taiwan using data from the “TriNetX database, which holds the largest global COVID-19 dataset.”

The team analyzed the medical record data of 3.8 million patients in the U.S., of which 888,460 had received a COVID-19 diagnosis (polymerase chain reaction–confirmed) between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021. This group was referred to as the COVID-19 cohort. The control group, referred to as the non-COVID-19 cohort, was matched to the COVID-19 cohort for age, sex, race, adverse socioeconomic status, lifestyle-related variables, and comorbidities. Patients who had received any COVID-19 vaccination throughout the study were intentionally excluded for clarity of interpretation.

The study results showed that patients from the COVID-19 cohort were 2-3 times more likely to develop autoimmune diseases than the non-COVID-19 cohort. The most commonly observed autoimmune diseases in the COVID-19 cohort were rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, dermatopolymyositis, systemic sclerosis, Sjögren’s syndrome, mixed connective tissue disease, Behçet’s disease, polymyalgia rheumatica, vasculitis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes.

The findings highlight the importance of monitoring COVID-19 patients for the development of autoimmune diseases and providing appropriate follow-up care.