Sjöwall J, Azharuddin M, Frodlund M, Zhang Y, Sandner L, Dahle C, Hinkula J, Sjöwall C
Front Immunol 12 (-) 724047 [2021-08-27; online 2021-08-27]
Impact of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic on individuals with arthritis has been highlighted whereas data on other rheumatic diseases, e.g., systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), are scarce. Similarly to SLE, severe SARS-CoV-2 infection includes risks for thromboembolism, an unbalanced type I interferon response, and complement activation. Herein, SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in longitudinal samples collected prior to vaccination were analyzed and compared with SLE progression and antinuclear antibody (ANA) levels. One hundred patients (83 women) with established SLE and a regular visit to the rheumatologist (March 2020 to January 2021) were included. All subjects donated blood and had done likewise prior to the pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 antibody isotypes (IgG, IgA, IgM) to the cell receptor-binding S1-spike outer envelope protein were detected by ELISA, and their neutralizing capacity was investigated. IgG-ANA were measured by multiplex technology. During the pandemic, 4% had PCR-confirmed infection but 36% showed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies of ≥1 isotype; IgA was the most common (30%), followed by IgM (9%) and IgG (8%). The antibodies had low neutralizing capacity and were detected also in prepandemic samples. Plasma albumin (p = 0.04) and anti-dsDNA (p = 0.003) levels were lower in patients with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Blood group, BMI, smoking habits, complement proteins, daily glucocorticoid dose, use of hydroxychloroquine, or self-reported coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) symptoms (except fever, >38.5°C) did not associate with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Our data from early 2021 indicate that a large proportion of Swedish SLE patients had serological signs of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 but apparently with a minor impact on the SLE course. Use of steroids and hydroxychloroquine showed no distinct effects, and self-reported COVID-19-related symptoms correlated poorly with all antibody isotypes.