Can immunization precipitate connective tissue disease? Report of five cases of systemic lupus erythematosus and review of the literature

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 1999 Dec;29(3):131-9. doi: 10.1016/s0049-0172(99)80024-9.


Objectives: To report a series of five patients who developed systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) after immunization and review the literature on vaccine-associated connective tissue diseases and the theoretical mechanisms that could explain such an association.

Methods: Uncontrolled retrospective analysis of cases identified sporadically over 7 years at three centers.

Results: In our series of 5 patients, symptoms of SLE developed within 2 to 3 weeks after secondary immunization. All patients met American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria for the diagnosis of SLE. In most patients, symptoms have been persistent.

Conclusion: Although a coincidental association between vaccination and the onset of SLE cannot be excluded, the temporal relationship with the development of symptoms makes it immunologically plausible that vaccination triggered systemic autoimmunity in these rare cases. We propose that epidemiological studies be performed to examine this potential association in more detail to quantitate the risk and identify possible genetic risk factors.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoimmunity / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Secondary / adverse effects*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / etiology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Vaccination / adverse effects*
  • Vaccines / adverse effects*


  • Vaccines