Similarities between COVID-19 and systemic sclerosis early vasculopathy: A "viral" challenge for future research in scleroderma

Autoimmun Rev. 2021 Oct;20(10):102899. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2021.102899. Epub 2021 Jul 15.


Objective: To review similarities between COVID-19 and systemic sclerosis (SSc) early vasculopathy to provide novel insights into both diseases.

Methods: A narrative review of the literature supplemented with expert opinion.

Results: There is clear evidence that the endothelium is at the centre stage in SSc and COVID-19, with endothelial cell activation/injury and dysfunction creating the crucial evolving step in the pathogenesis of both diseases. The angiotensin system has also been implicated in the early stages of both COVID-19 and SSc. Autoptic studies provide novel insights into the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on the endothelium. Normal endothelium and endothelial dysfunction in COVID-19 and SSc are discussed. It is debated whether SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers autoimmunity with production of autoantibodies which is of mechanistic interest because other viral illnesses are potentially involved in endothelial dysfunction and in SSc pathogenesis.

Conclusion: COVID-19 is due to a direct assault of SARS-CoV-2 on the vascular system as an acute infection, whereas SSc remains a chronic/sub-acute autoimmune disease of largely unknown etiology Further study and exploration of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogenic mechanisms might provide further useful milestones in the understanding of the early SSc pathogenesis.

Keywords: Autoimmunity; COVID-19; Endothelial damage; SarsCov2; Systemic sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoimmunity
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / diagnosis


  • Autoantibodies