Background Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) represent a unique population at risk for COVID-19 due to underlying immune abnormalities and regular use of immunosuppressant medications. This study was initiated to evaluate for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies in SLE patients with and without prior COVID-19-related symptoms or COVID-19 RT PCR testing.
Methods A total of 329 patients with SLE from two cohorts, one serially monitored for COVID-19 in Spring 2020 (the Web-based Assesment of Autoimmune, Immune-Mediated and Rheumatic Patients (WARCOV) and one undergoing routine surveillance (NYU Lupus Cohort) were tested for SARS-CoV-2 IgG via commercially available immunoassays processed through hospital or outpatient laboratories between April 29, 2020 and February 9, 2021.
Results Overall, 16% of 329 patients had a reactive SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibody test. Seropositive patients were more likely to be Hispanic. Other demographic variables, lupus-specific factors and immunosuppressant use were not associated with reactivity. Of the 29 patients with prior RT-PCR confirmed COVID-19, 83% developed an antibody response despite 62% being on immunosuppressants. Six percent of patients who had symptoms suspicious for COVID-19 but negative concurrent RT-PCR testing developed an antibody response. Twenty-three percent of patients who had COVID-19-related symptoms but no RT-PCR testing and 5% of patients who had no symptoms of COVID-19 developed an antibody response. Among patients initially SARS-CoV-2 IgG positive, the majority maintained reactivity serially. In COVID-19-confirmed patients high percentages had antibody positivity beyond 30 weeks from disease onset, 88% up to 10 weeks, 83% up to 20 weeks, and 80% up to 30 weeks.
Conclusions Most patients with SLE and confirmed COVID-19 were able to produce a serologic response despite use of a variety of immunosuppressants. These findings provide reassurances regarding the efficacy of humoral immunity and possible reinfection protection in patients with SLE.
Acknowledgments Data presented on behalf of the NYU WARCOV investigators. We thank Leora Horwitz for her assistance with the ICD-10 query at NYU. We also acknowledge Tania Moin and Ranit Shriky for assistance in navigating regulatory matters.
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