The Coronavirus pandemic is the most discussed global situation at present and has a current active count of 639,371 cases worldwide. Besides age and sex, the most important risk factor of COVID-19 is ‘severe underlying health conditions’ that decrease or affect the body’s immunity against foreign harmful biological organisms, like a virus. In this list of diseases that make patients prone to coronavirus infection, Ankylosing Spondylitis a prominent one. Here we discuss some important questions regarding COVID-19 and Ankylosing Spondylitis.
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory disease that leads to a progressive fusing of some spinal bones. As a result, patient becomes less flexible with curvature deformities on his back-side. In severe cases where the ribs are affected, patients also find it difficult to properly breathe.
Why are patients with Ankylosing Spondylitis more prone to COVID-19?
COVID-19 can be primarily fought back by the body’s immune system but what if your immunity is already suppressed? As Ankylosing Spondylitis is an inflammatory disease, the patients are mostly prescribed immunosuppressive drugs so as to tackle the problem of immune inflammation. Thus, patients using immunosuppressive drugs are obviously at more risk to get coronavirus infection. Although this is a general understanding of what might be the cause of these patients being at an increased risk of COVID-19, specific mechanisms have not yet been elucidated.
Should Ankylosing Spondylitis patients avoid their biologics in the current scenario?
If the patient is showing respiratory problems, it is better to contact the respective medical personnel before taking a personal decision of omitting the drug but unless complications associated with other COVID-19 risk factors and symptoms are present, omitting one’s medication is not popularly suggested by disease experts. If there is no sign of infection, the patients can probably safely continue with their biologics unless they fall into the high-risk categories of ‘older age’ and ‘severe conditions like hypertension, diabetes, lung disease, and kidney infection’.These patients may consider stopping their drugs for a while until the COVID-19 outbreak is under control.
Can NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs) worsen COVID-19 effects?
At present, there are no data on NSAIDs but people who take prescribed NSAIDs may temporarily have damaging effects on their kidney function, which may indicate a higher risk of COVID-19. Again, on a general note, NSAIDs may not pose a threat to patients do who do not show COVID-19 symptoms and the best way to ensure the intake of immunosuppressive drugs is a thorough consultation with an expert rheumatologist.
When a vaccine becomes available, will it be safe for patients with Ankylosing Spondylitis?
For patients on biologics, Killed or attenuated vaccines are usually safer than live vaccines. Therefore, live vaccines should be avoided in case of an available alternative. That being said, although efforts are underway to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, it will take some time before a suitable vaccine is available.
Is there any alternative to NSAIDs for Ankylosing Spondylitis patients?
The answer is yes! Regenerative Medicine can be a potential candidate in the treatment of Ankylosing Spondylitis due to its proven immunomodulatory effects on the body. Thus, while NSAIDs have immunosuppressive effects, Stem cells can regulate the immune functions in a positive way and also fight the risk of other infections in the body. For more information on stem cell, contact firstname.lastname@example.org