Background: Studies of proliferative lupus nephritis (PLN) suggest that African-Americans have a poorer prognosis than Whites. However, no study has simultaneously examined socio-economic status. We studied rates of progression of PLN among a tri-ethnic population with respect to socio-economic status and race/ethnicity.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study was carried out using individual and census-based neighbourhood data. Consecutive patients in urban tertiary care centres with biopsy-proven PLN were studied. The main outcome was time to doubling of serum creatinine.
Results: Among 128 patients with PLN, the percentage of patients who did not double their serum creatinine at 5 years was 67.0% (+/-4.8%) and at 10 years was 58.9% (+/-5.7%). In bivariate analyses, residence in a poor neighbourhood was positively associated with progression (P = 0.03), as was African-American and Hispanic race/ethnicity (P = 0.01). Residence in a poor neighbourhood remained associated with progression of disease after adjustment for age, sex, creatinine, hypertension, cyclophosphamide treatment and race/ethnicity [relative risk (RR) 3.5, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2-11, P = 0.03]. After adjustment for poverty and insurance, the RR for African-American race/ethnicity was reduced from 3.5 to 2.7 and was not statistically associated with progression of disease in the full model (P = 0.10). A similar reduction in RR from 5.5 to 3.6 was seen for Hispanic race/ethnicity, but this retained statistical significance (P = 0.03).
Conclusions: Poverty is an important risk factor for progression of PLN, independent of race/ethnicity. Hispanics have an elevated risk similar to or greater than African-Americans. Given these findings, some of the poorer prognosis of African-American patients with PLN may result from socio-economic rather than biological or genetic factors.