Numerous cases of glomerulonephritis manifesting shortly after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination have been reported, but causality remains unproven. Here, we studied the association between mRNA-based SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and new-onset glomerulonephritis using a nationwide retrospective cohort and a case-cohort design. Data from all Swiss pathology institutes processing native kidney biopsies served to calculate incidence of IgA nephropathy, pauci-immune necrotizing glomerulonephritis, minimal change disease, and membranous nephropathy in the adult Swiss population. The observed incidence during the vaccination campaign (January to August 2021) was not different from the expected incidence calculated using a Bayesian model based on the years 2015 to 2019 (incidence rate ratio 0.86, 95% credible interval 0.73-1.02) and did not cross the upper boundary of the 95% credible interval for any month. Among 111 patients 18 years and older with newly diagnosed glomerulonephritis between January and August 2021, 38.7% had received at least one vaccine dose before biopsy, compared to 39.5% of the general Swiss population matched for age and calendar-time. The estimated risk ratio for the development of new-onset biopsy-proven glomerulonephritis was not significant at 0.97 (95% confidence interval 0.66-1.42) in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated individuals. Patients with glomerulonephritis manifesting within four weeks after vaccination did not differ clinically from those manifesting temporally unrelated to vaccination. Thus, vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 was not associated with new-onset glomerulonephritis in these two complementary studies with most temporal associations between SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and glomerulonephritis likely coincidental.
Keywords: COVID vaccine; IgA nephropathy; SARS-CoV-2 vaccination; glomerulonephritis; membranous nephropathy; minimal change disease.
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