Systemic lupus erythematosus patients face increased risk of serious infection


March 30, 2021 (Vancouver) – Arthritis Research Canada study finds one in five patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) develop severe infections with 21 per cent of those infections causing death.

This is the first study to evaluate the risk of severe infections in a large group of SLE patients from the general population.

“Our research found that SLE is associated with an 82 per cent increased risk of severe infection when compared to non-SLE and a 61 per cent increased risk of infection-related mortality,” said Kai Zhao, a research trainee at Arthritis Research Canada. “These are important findings because they show that infections are one of the leading causes of premature death in patients living with this disease.”

The increased risk of infection is thought to be a result of two factors. First, immune system dysfunctions caused by SLE. Second, use of immunosuppressive medications and glucocorticoids. These medications inhibit the immune network and, therefore, decrease resistance to a wide variety of bacterial, viral, and fungal agents.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is the most common form of lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue and organs. Approximately 15,000 Canadians are affected by SLE.


To read the full research paper, please click here.


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Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research institution in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific director, Dr. Diane Lacaille is leading a team of over 100 researchers, trainees and staff whose world recognized research is creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Arthritis Research Canada is conducting research across Canada in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec and is affiliated with five major universities: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Université Laval, and McGill University. Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis, new and better treatment, and improved quality of life.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Heather Caulder
Marketing and Communications Officer
604-207-4010 or hcaulder@arthritisresearch.ca

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