Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease of multifactorial origin. Studies have shown that trace elements such as zinc and copper may help maintain optimum function of the immune system and metabolism, while toxic metals such as lead may increase systemic autoimmunity. The current study aimed to assess the relationship between serum concentration of lithium (Li), vanadium (V), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), molybdenum (Mo), cadmium (Cd), and lead (Pb) and SLE diagnosis, disease activity measured by SLE disease activity index (SLEDAI) and insulin resistance (IR). This case-control, cross-sectional study included 225 patients, 120 healthy controls, and 105 SLE patients. Serum concentration of Li, V, Cu, Zn, Mo, Cd, and Pb was measured. Serum concentrations of V (p < 0.001), Zn (p < 0.001), and Pb (p < 0.001) were lower and Mo (p < 0.001) and Li (p < 0.001) were higher in patients with SLE compared to healthy controls. SLE diagnosis was associated with higher serum Li (p < 0.001) concentration and lower V (p < 0.001), Zn (p = 0.003), and Pb (p = 0.020). Toxic metals and trace elements were not associated with disease activity. Levels of Cd were higher in patients with IR (p = 0.042). There was no significant association between IR and the other metals. The results indicate that SLE patients have different profiles of trace elements and toxic metals compared to healthy controls. While some toxic metals and trace elements were found to be associated with SLE diagnosis, they had no effect on disease activity and IR.
Keywords: Glucose homeostasis; Heavy metals; Insulin resistance; SLE disease activity index (SLEDAI); Trace elements.