Characteristics associated with poor COVID-19 outcomes in individuals with systemic lupus erythematosus: data from the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance

Ann Rheum Dis. 2022 Jul;81(7):970-978. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2021-221636. Epub 2022 Feb 16.


Aim: To determine characteristics associated with more severe outcomes in a global registry of people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and COVID-19.

Methods: People with SLE and COVID-19 reported in the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance registry from March 2020 to June 2021 were included. The ordinal outcome was defined as: (1) not hospitalised, (2) hospitalised with no oxygenation, (3) hospitalised with any ventilation or oxygenation and (4) death. A multivariable ordinal logistic regression model was constructed to assess the relationship between COVID-19 severity and demographic characteristics, comorbidities, medications and disease activity.

Results: A total of 1606 people with SLE were included. In the multivariable model, older age (OR 1.03, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.04), male sex (1.50, 1.01 to 2.23), prednisone dose (1-5 mg/day 1.86, 1.20 to 2.66, 6-9 mg/day 2.47, 1.24 to 4.86 and ≥10 mg/day 1.95, 1.27 to 2.99), no current treatment (1.80, 1.17 to 2.75), comorbidities (eg, kidney disease 3.51, 2.42 to 5.09, cardiovascular disease/hypertension 1.69, 1.25 to 2.29) and moderate or high SLE disease activity (vs remission; 1.61, 1.02 to 2.54 and 3.94, 2.11 to 7.34, respectively) were associated with more severe outcomes. In age-adjusted and sex-adjusted models, mycophenolate, rituximab and cyclophosphamide were associated with worse outcomes compared with hydroxychloroquine; outcomes were more favourable with methotrexate and belimumab.

Conclusions: More severe COVID-19 outcomes in individuals with SLE are largely driven by demographic factors, comorbidities and untreated or active SLE. Patients using glucocorticoids also experienced more severe outcomes.

Keywords: COVID-19; epidemiology; lupus erythematosus; systemic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / complications
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use
  • Rheumatology*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Prednisone