COVID-19 in systemic lupus erythematosus: data from a survey on 417 patients

SMILE, Milan Lupus Consortium, Giuseppe A. Ramirez, Maria Gerosa, Lorenzo Beretta, Chiara Bellocchi, Lorenza M. Argolini, Luca Moroni, Emanuel Della Torre, Carolina Artusi, Selene Nicolosi, Roberto Caporali, Enrica P. Bozzolo, Lorenzo Dagna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic disease characterised by autoimmunity and increased susceptibility to infections. COVID-19 is a systemic viral disease currently spreading as a pandemic. Little is known about the impact of COVID-19 in patients with SLE. Objective: to acquire information on the impact of COVID-19 in SLE. Methods: A 26-item anonymous questionnaire investigating demographics, SLE clinical features, COVID-19 diagnoses and changes in treatments and daily habits was administered to patients with SLE from three referral centres through over 10 days. Data from the survey were compared to those from published estimates about the general population. Results: Four-hundred-seventeen patients responded to the survey. More than 60% of subjects complained of symptoms that are also associated to COVID-19. Fourteen COVID-19 diagnoses (five confirmed by polymerase chain reaction) were reported, in contrast to a 0.73% prevalence of confirmed cases in Lombardy. One hospitalisation was reported. Fever, anosmia, dry cough, a self-reported history of neuropsychiatric SLE and a recent contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases were more strongly associated with COVID-19, as were symptoms and lower compliance to behavioural preventive measures in patients’ contacts. No protective effect was seen in subjects on hydroxychloroquine. Conclusion: COVID-19 morbidity might only moderately be increased in most patients with SLE, although limited information can be inferred on more severe cases. Hydroxychloroquine apparently seems not to confer protection to infection per se, although other beneficial roles cannot be excluded. Containment policies and behavioural preventive measures could have a major role in limiting the impact of COVID-19 in patients with SLE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1150-1157
Number of pages8
JournalSeminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Epidemiology
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Web

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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