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Comparing the burdens of opportunistic infections among patients with systemic rheumatic diseases: a nationally representative cohort study

  • Hsu, Chung-Yuan1
  • Ko, Chi-Hua2, 3
  • Wang, Jiun-Ling4
  • Hsu, Tsai-Ching5
  • Lin, Chun-Yu4
  • 1 Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Allergy, and Immunology, Department of Internal Medicine, Kaohsiung, Taiwan , Kaohsiung (Taiwan)
  • 2 National Chung Hsing University, Department of Life Sciences, Taichung, Taiwan , Taichung (Taiwan)
  • 3 Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Department of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology, Yunlin, Taiwan , Yunlin (Taiwan)
  • 4 National Cheng Kung University, Department of Internal Medicine, National Cheng Kung University Hospital, College of Medicine, No.138, Sheng Li Road, Tainan, 704, Taiwan , Tainan (Taiwan)
  • 5 Institute of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, Chung Shan Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan , Taichung (Taiwan)
Published Article
Arthritis Research & Therapy
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Oct 12, 2019
DOI: 10.1186/s13075-019-1997-5
Springer Nature


ObjectiveTo estimate and compare the burdens of opportunistic infections and herpes zoster in real-world practice among patients with various systemic rheumatic diseases.MethodsThis 13-year cohort study used national health insurance data to compare the incidence rates (IRs) of nine opportunistic infections among patients with five rheumatic diseases. The analyses were stratified according to follow-up duration using Poisson regression, and Cox models were used to compare the risk of first opportunistic infection.ResultsDuring 2000–2013, we identified 76,966 patients who had polymyositis/dermatomyositis (PM/DM, 2270 cases), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, 15,961 cases), systemic sclerosis (SSc, 2071 cases), rheumatoid arthritis (RA, 38,355 cases), or primary Sjögren’s syndrome (pSS, 18,309 cases). The IR of opportunistic infections was highest for PM/DM cases (61.3/1000 person-years, 95% confidence interval [CI] 56.6–66.2), followed by SLE cases (43.1/1000 person-years, 95% CI 41.7–44.5), SSc cases (31.6/1000 person-years, 95% CI 28.3–35.1), RA cases (25.0/1000 person-years, 95% CI 24.4–25.7), and pSS cases (24.1/1000 person-years, 95% CI 23.1–25.2). Multivariable Cox analysis revealed that, relative to SLE, PM/DM was associated with a significantly higher risk of opportunistic infections (hazard ratio 1.18, 95% CI 1.08–1.29). The risk of opportunistic infections was highest during the first year after the diagnosis of all five rheumatic diseases.ConclusionsThe risk of opportunistic infection was highest for PM/DM, followed by SLE, SSc, RA, and pSS. Careful observation and preventive therapy for opportunistic infections may be warranted in selected PM/DM patients, especially during the first year after the diagnosis.

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