To analyze clinical characteristics and outcome of COVID-19 patients with underlying rheumatic diseases (RD) on immunosuppressive agents.
A case series of COVID-19 patients with RD on disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) were studied by a retrospective chart review. A literature search identified 9 similar studies of single cases and case series, which were also included.
There were 4 COVID-19 inpatients with RD from our hospital, and the mean age was 57 ± 21 years. Two patients had a mild infection, and 2 developed severe COVID-19 related respiratory complications, including 1 patient on secukinumab requiring mechanical ventilation and 1 patient on rituximab developing viral pneumonia requiring supplemental oxygenation. All 4 patients had elevated acute phase reactants, 2 patients had mild COVID-19 with lymphopenia, and 2 patients had severe COVID-19 with normal lymphocyte counts, and high levels of IL-6. None of the patients exhibited an exacerbation of their underlying RD. In the literature, there were 9 studies of COVID-19 involving 197 cases of various inflammatory RD. Most patients were on DMARDs or biologics, of which TNFα inhibitors were most frequently used. Two tocilizumab users had a mild infection. Two patients were on rituximab with 1 severe COVID-19 requiring mechanical ventilation. Six patients were on secukinumab with 1 hospitalization. Of the total 201 cases, 12 died, with an estimated mortality of 5.9%
Patients with RD are susceptible to COVID-19. Various DMARDs or biologics may affect the viral disease course differently. Patients on hydroxychloroquine, TNFα antagonists or tocilizumab may have a mild viral illness. Rituximab or secukinumab could worsen the viral disease. Further study is warranted.