Infections Are Not Increased in Scleroderma Compared to Non-Inflammatory Musculoskeletal Disorders Prior to Disease Onset
Posted Sep 11 2009 4:56pm
By Janet E. Pope and Colleague
The etiology of scleroderma (SSc) is unknown; immunogenic stimuli such as infections and vaccinations could theoretically be risk factors for scleroderma. Our objective was to assess the relationship between viral and bacterial infec-tions, and vaccinations, prior to diagnosis of SSc compared to non-inflammatory controls.
A questionnaire was sent to individuals with SSc (n =83) and controls (n=351) with non-inflammatory musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders (os-teoarthritis, n = 204; tendonitis, n = 58; fibromyalgia, n= 89) from a rheumatology practice. Questions ascertained past in-fections, exposure to infectious agents and vaccination history. Results: The response rate was 78% (SSc) and 56% (MSK controls).
The mean age was 56 ± 1.6 (SSc) and 58 ± 0.9 (MSK); 88% (SSc) and 82% (MSK) were female. No association between prior infections and SSc was observed. In fact, controls were more likely than SSc subjects to report any infec-tion within 1-year prior to disease diagnosis (35% vs. 16%, p
<0.006), or to have suffered a trauma to affected joints prior to diagnosis (44% vs. 19%, p
Within the 1-year prior to disease diagnosis, controls reported slightly more strep-tococcal infections (p
<0.2), infections with diarrhea and vomiting (p
<0.3), and antibiotic use (p
<0.09), although none of these results were statistically significant. Histories of any hepatitis, rubella, any bacterial infection, and having had a pre-vious positive tuberculosis skin test were not significantly different between groups and were actually more often reported by the control subjects. SSc reported slightly more hepatitis B (p
<0.08), more rheumatic fever (p
<0.8) in past, and herpes zoster (p
<0.4), although no differences reached significance.
This study does not support that self-report of symptomatic infections are more likely to occur ever (prior to diagnosis) or within 1-year prior to symptom onset of SSc, or that vaccinations in adulthood trigger SSc.