NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Most psoriasis patients taking drugs that affect the immune system survive COVID-19

Patients with psoriasis who are taking drugs that affect their immune system have high rates of survival from COVID-19. According to the first findings from a global registry of psoriasis and COVID-19 patients, in research supported by NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

The researchers found that the risk factors of severe COVID-19 outcomes in patients reported to the registry were similar to the general population.

The findings come from the first analysis of the web-based PsoProtect registry, established to understand how psoriasis and the medications that are used to treat it might influence the severity of COVID-19. Collaboration has been crucial to the registry, founded by dermatologists and researchers at the St John’s Institute of Dermatology at Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College London and University of Manchester, and supported by psoriasis patient organisations throughout the world, including the Psoriasis Association in the UK.

Professor Chris Griffiths

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty plaques of skin covered with silvery scales and affects around 2 per cent of people in the UK. It is thought to be related to a problem in the immune system, so dermatologists have been working to understand how COVID-19 and the condition may interact.

Professor Chris Griffiths, Manchester BRC Dermatology Lead said: “Patients with moderate to severe psoriasis are treated with drugs that affect the immune system, including biologics that target specific immune proteins, or traditional tablet immunosuppressants. Many of these patients were asked to shield during the pandemic. Through the PsoProtect registry we have been able to present the largest and first global case series of COVID-19 in people with psoriasis. This is vital in helping us to understand more about the interactions between psoriasis, its treatments and COVID-19 infection.”

Dr Zenas Yiu, NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Dermatology and an author on the paper of the first findings said: “Our research suggests that people with psoriasis on biologics should continue their treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. We do need more data to be able to understand the relative safety of these treatments and we encourage clinicians and patients to continue to report your experience of COVID-19. We are incredibly grateful to everyone contributing to this international effort.”

Dr Zenas Yiu

Helen McAteer, Chief Executive of the Psoriasis Association said: “From the beginning of the pandemic we understood the importance of being proactive in order to address the many concerns expressed by people who are living with psoriasis. The PsoProtect registry is vital in helping us understand more about the interactions between psoriasis, its treatments and COVID-19 infection so as patients can make the most informed choices about their care and treatment at this challenging time.”

The initial findings from the PsoProtect registry were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The paper is an analysis of 374 clinician-reported cases where patients with psoriasis had COVID-19. The cases came from 25 countries, and were submitted between March and July 2020. Most of the patients (334, 89 per cent) were taking biologics for their psoriasis (267, 71 per cent) or traditional immunosuppressants (67, 18 per cent).

Most of the cases – 348 (93 per cent) fully recovered from COVID-19, 77 (21 per cent) were hospitalized and nine (2 per cent) died. The study found that, similarly to the general population, patients who were older, male, of non-white ethnicity and with other health conditions such as chronic lung disease were more likely to require hospital admission for their COVID-19 infection.

The research was supported by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre, the NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre and The Psoriasis Association.