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Rheumatologists have warned that lupus patients might be more susceptible to COVID-19 and a severe disease course, independent of their immunosuppressed state from lupus treatment.
Amr Sawalha, MD, director of the Comprehensive Lupus Center of Excellence, was recently published in Clinical Immunology for his work in how epigenetic dysregulation of ACE2 and interferon-regulated genes might suggest increased COVID-19 susceptibility and severity in lupus patients.
Dr. Sawalha, along with his research collaborators in China, found that people with lupus produce more of the ACE2 molecule, the human cell surface that SARS-CoV-2 binds to, than other people do. In addition to ACE2 molecules, people with lupus also produce more inflammatory cytokines that can generate a cytokine storm, possibly causing severe damage in an attempt to clear the infection.