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COVID-19 And Autoimmune Diseases, A Matter To Investigate

After more than two years since the first outbreaks of COVID-19 appeared in the world, one of the aspects that has generated the greatest unknowns in the medical and scientific community is the relationship between Sars Cov 2 and autoimmune diseases 

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LatinAmerican Post | Daniel Alejandro Vergara García

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Leer en español: COVID-19 y enfermedades autoinmunes, un asunto por investigar

The study of COVID-19 and its variants has made it possible to make important discoveries and advances in vaccination and prevention. However, as the understanding of the virus advances, more questions arise that must be investigated and analyzed by science. What effects do they have on people with autoimmune diseases? It is one of the doubts that have been raised since the global expansion of the virus. However, this mystery has not yet been resolved given that in just two years the necessary studies have not been carried out to reveal further information. 

Two of the concerns for the scientific community are whether the virus can increase mortality rates in people with autoimmune diseases and whether vaccination can influence the activation of one of these diseases or enhance them.

To answer these questions, it is necessary to know the definition of autoimmune diseases, according to the National Cancer Institute, they are: "Conditions by which the body's immune system attacks its own healthy tissues because it confuses them with foreign tissues". The symptoms are varied and depend on the type of disease and each patient. These autoimmune conditions can affect the same family group and are more common in women.

What do the studies say about the relationship between coronavirus and autoimmunity?

Regarding the first question, it is necessary to state that few population studies have been carried out to determine whether mortality can increase in patients with autoimmune diseases thanks to COVID-19. The truth is that since the appearance of the virus, people with autoimmune conditions have been considered a high-risk population.

However, a study in 2020, published in the journal Acta Médica Peruana, observed about 977 hospitalized patients, half of whom had autoimmune diseases and the other half had no signs of any autoimmune disease. Of the total number of people analyzed, 116 died, but the study determines that the causes of death were due to symptoms related to the COVID-19 disease itself and not to the comorbidities that patients with autoimmune conditions may present.

It is necessary to clarify that although the results of this study are encouraging, much remains to be done on the relationship between mortality rates in patients with clinical symptoms linked to autoimmune diseases.

On the second question, there are different positions on the relationship between vaccination and the appearance of this type of disease. Although it is an issue that should continue to be investigated, in most countries no measures have been implemented to prevent people with autoimmune diseases from suspending vaccination processes due to the danger of increasing the symptoms of their diseases. Likewise, it has not been possible to determine whether biologicals, which have helped reduce mortality and morbidity rates, can be triggers or determinants for the appearance of an autoimmune condition. Not including patients with autoimmune diseases in the various scientific studies on Covid 19 has prevented more information from being provided to these questions.

One of the great concerns is that vaccines, which use platforms of RNA, DNA, inactivated viruses or protein nanoparticles to activate the body's immune response, in order to combat certain characteristics of the virus and thus generate immunity; They can be triggers of some autoimmune conditions. Although there have been cases in which certain vaccinated people have developed autoimmune diseases pathologies, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, there are no concrete data that can support the degree of incidence of biologicals in the appearance of these diseases.

Also read: What Is Impostor Syndrome And How To Overcome It?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), important efforts are being made to carry out studies that can provide more information on this subject. The first data from an investigation carried out by the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance in which the reactions to the vaccines of nearly 2,600 patients with autoimmune diseases are currently being awaited.

Similarly, the investigation "The Vacolup Study" in France has yielded the following results: "There are updated data on 339 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. 49% had some side effect after the first dose (81% mild-moderate) and 49% after the second dose (79% mild-moderate). Only 3% have presented an outbreak of the disease and there have been no cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the vaccinated patients.

Finally, an NIH study emphasizes that despite the lack of information on this subject, patients with autoimmune diseases can continue to receive any type of vaccine and do not need to suspend the immunosuppressive treatments they are having to treat their condition. autoimmune. Undoubtedly, although the information is scarce, the scientific and medical community continues to make great efforts to investigate and produce information related to this topic, despite this there is no doubt that vaccination continues to be one of the most effective methods to save lives in almost any type of person with various clinical pictures.