In this study, we aimed to examine the effect of vitamin D deficiency on all-cause mortality in ankylosing spondylitis (AS) patients and in the general population. This is a retrospective-cohort study based on the electronic database of the largest health-maintenance organization in Israel. AS patients who were first diagnosed between 2002-2007 were included. Controls were matched by age, gender and enrollment-time. Follow-up continued until death or end of study follow-up on 1 July 2019. Laboratory measures of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin-D levels during the entire follow-up period were obtained. A total of 919 AS patients and 4519 controls with a mean time of follow-up of 14.3 years were included. The mean age at the time of enrollment was 52 years, and 22% of them were females. AS was associated with a higher proportion of vitamin D deficiency (odds ratio 1.27 [95% confidence-interval (CI) 1.03-1.58]). In AS patients, insufficient levels of vitamin D (< 30 ng/mL) were significantly associated with increased incidence of all-cause mortality (hazard ratio (HR) 1.59 [95% CI 1.02-2.50]). This association was more prominent with the decrease in vitamin D levels (< 20 ng/mL, HR 1.63 [95% CI 1.03-2.60]; <10 ng/mL, HR 1.79 [95% CI 1.01-3.20]) and among male patients (< 30 ng/mL, HR 2.11 [95% CI 1.20-3.72]; <20 ng/mL, HR 2.12 [95% CI 1.19-3.80]; <10 ng/mL, HR 2.23 [95% CI 1.12-4.43]). However, inadequate levels of vitamin D among controls were not associated with an increased all-cause mortality. Our study has shown that vitamin D deficiency is more common in AS patients than controls and is linked to an increased risk for all-cause mortality. These results emphasize the need for randomized-controlled trials to evaluate the benefits of vitamin D supplementation as a secondary prevention of mortality in patients with chronic inflammatory rheumatic disease.
Keywords: 25-hydroxyvitamin D; Autoimmunity; ankylosing spondylitis; mortality; vitamin D.