Risk Factors for Infection and Health Impacts of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic in People With Autoimmune Diseases

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Background: People with autoimmune or inflammatory conditions taking immunomodulatory/suppressive medications may have higher risk of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Chronic disease care has also changed for many patients, with uncertain downstream consequences. Methods: We included participants with autoimmune or inflammatory conditions followed by specialists at Johns Hopkins. Participants completed periodic surveys querying comorbidities, disease-modifying medications, exposures, COVID-19 testing and outcomes, social behaviors, and disruptions to healthcare. We assessed whether COVID-19 risk is higher among those on immunomodulating or suppressive agents and characterized pandemic-associated changes to care and mental health. Results: In total, 265 (5.6%) developed COVID-19 over 9 months of follow-up (April-December 2020). Patient characteristics (age, race, comorbidity, medications) were associated with differences in social distancing behaviors during the pandemic. Glucocorticoid exposure was associated with higher odds of COVID-19 in models incorporating behavior and other potential confounders (odds ratio [OR]: 1.43; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.08, 1.89). Other medication classes were not associated with COVID-19 risk. Diabetes (OR: 1.72; 95% CI: 1.08, 2.73), cardiovascular disease (OR: 1.68; 95% CI: 1.24, 2.28), and kidney disease (OR: 1.76; 95% CI: 1.04, 2.97) were associated with higher odds of COVID-19. Of the 2156 reporting pre-pandemic utilization of infusion, mental health or rehabilitative services, 975 (45.2%) reported disruptions therein, which disproportionately affected individuals experiencing changes to employment or income. Conclusions: Glucocorticoid exposure may increase risk of COVID-19 in people with autoimmune or inflammatory conditions. Disruption to healthcare and related services was common. Those with pandemic-related reduced income may be most vulnerable to care disruptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-436
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • COVID-19
  • autoimmune disease
  • glucocorticoids
  • immune-modulating medications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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