Latest data on COVID-19 patients with rheumatic diseases revealed in registry


An international registry of adult and pediatric rheumatology patients is beginning to identify trends in the types of patients with COVID-19 and who is recovering.

Dr. Jinoos Yazdany

Dr. Jinoos Yazdany

The COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance (GRA) has created pediatric and adult registries for health care providers to enter information on their rheumatology patients with COVID-19. The adult registry is hosted by the University of California, San Francisco, Research Electronic Data Capture system, while the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance is supporting the pediatric registry. A separate path for data entry of both adult and pediatric cases has been established through the European League Against Rheumatism for European countries and countries with EULAR member organizations.

Prior to the creation of the registries, there were no data available to guide rheumatologists in clinical decision making for their patients, noted Jinoos Yazdany, MD, MPH, COVID-19 GRA steering committee member and chief of the division of rheumatology at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. “COVID-19 has potential to severely affect those with rheumatologic diseases or those taking immunosuppressive drugs,” she said in an interview. “The GRA registries were designed to answer critical questions that will inform the medical care of this population.”

The GRA began on Twitter, with conversations between Leonard H. Calabrese, DO, of the Cleveland Clinic; Paul Sufka, MD, of HealthPartners in St. Paul, Minn.; Philip Robinson, MBChB, PhD, of the Royal Brisbane (Australia) Hospital; and herself, Dr. Yazdany said. Dr. Robinson started work on the governance of the GRA, Dr. Yazdany designed the data infrastructure, and Dr. Sufka approached his professional networks and social media followings to promote the effort and ask for support. The COVID-19 GRA steering committee representatives include patients, private practice rheumatologists, and international investigators. Listed among official supporters of the alliance are the American College of Rheumatology and EULAR along with more than 290 medical societies, institutions, journals, and other organizations in rheumatology.

The goal of the registries is to examine the health outcomes of patients with rheumatic diseases and COVID-19 based on sociodemographic factors, comorbidities, and clinical presentations of COVID-19 as well as what role taking immunosuppressive drugs prior to a COVID-19 infection play in helping or hindering outcomes. Hydroxychloroquine, used to treat lupus and arthritis, is a potential treatment candidate for COVID-19. Biologics such as tocilizumab (Actemra) and sarilumab (Kevzara), which target interleukin-6, and anakinra (Kineret), which targets IL-1, are treatment candidates for patients who have experienced COVID-related cytokine storm syndrome, which researchers believe may contribute to worsening or fatal cases.

Dr. Yazdany, who is also vice chair of real-world data infrastructure, registry, and institutional review board/ethics for the GRA, said that there are some important high-level trends in the data thus far. “People with lupus and those taking hydroxychloroquine are becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2, which is counter to misinformation on social media. Most people with rheumatic diseases on immunosuppression are recovering, which is great news for our patients.”

One of the major strengths of the registries is that each case is entered by the rheumatologist treating the patient and contains detailed clinical information, Dr. Yazdany said. However, the registry has no control group, it is not a population surveillance study, and it may contain selection bias through rheumatologists omitting milder, undiagnosed cases.

“The Global Alliance case reporting registry represents the collective effort of hundreds of rheumatologists across the world. I have never been more inspired by the strength and collaboration of the rheumatology community,” Dr. Yazdany said.

According to a paper published in the Lancet Rheumatology, which references data on 110 cases from the combined databases up to April 1, about three-fourths of cases presented with fever (79%) and cough (77%), and about half presented with shortness of breath (50%) and myalgia (45%).


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