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Does low risk of infections as a marker of effective immunity predict increased risk of subsequent giant cell arteritis or polymyalgia rheumatica? A Danish population-based case–control study

Authors Brault C, Riis AH, Mor A, Duhaut P, Thomsen RW

Received 28 November 2017

Accepted for publication 12 May 2018

Published 16 October 2018 Volume 2018:10 Pages 1533—1543


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Irene Petersen

Clément Brault,1,2 Anders H Riis,1 Anil Mor,1 Pierre Duhaut,2 Reimar W Thomsen1

1Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark; 2Department of Internal Medicine and RECIF, Amiens-Picardie University Hospital, Amiens, France

Objective: It has been suggested that a hyper-effective immune system (“hyper-immunity”) is central to the pathogenesis of giant cell arteritis and polymyalgia rheumatica (GCA/PMR). We examined if a low risk of infections, as a marker of hyper-immunity, can predict increased subsequent risk of GCA/PMR.
Patients and methods: We conducted a population-based case–control study including all patients aged ≥50 years with incident GCA/PMR diagnosed between 1997 and 2012 in Northern Denmark. For each case, we selected 10 population controls matched on gender, age, place of residence, and time spent in the region. Complete history of hospital-treated infections and community-based anti-infective prescriptions was assessed in population-based registries. We used conditional logistic regression to compute OR of GCA/PMR associated with infections while adjusting for comorbidities, immunosuppressive treatment, and other potential confounders.
Results: We included 7,225 GCA/PMR cases and 72,250 controls. When excluding all infections occurring within the last year before GCA/PMR diagnosis, there was no decreased risk for GCA/PMR in people with a history of hospital-treated infection (adjusted OR=1.04, 95% CI: 0.98–1.10) or community anti-infective treatment (adjusted OR=1.07, 95% CI: 0.99–1.16). Within the last year preceding the GCA/PMR index date, patients with hospital-treated infections (adjusted OR=1.59, 95% CI: 1.44–1.75) or community anti-infective treatment (adjusted OR=1.63, 95% CI: 1.48–1.79) had a greatly increased risk of a GCA/PMR diagnosis.
Conclusion: These results do not support the hypothesis of “hyper-immunity” leading to GCA/PMR. Instead, incident GCA/PMR is preceded by a slightly increased risk of infection, which may be related to protopathic bias or support theories that infections may be directly involved in the pathogenesis of GCA/PMR.

Keywords: giant cell arteritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, infection, immune system

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