Medical studies are crucial to understand the effect of diseases and treatments on patients. Over the last year and a half, the medical field has distinctly focused on COVID-19, a novel coronavirus responsible for 219M cases and 4.55M deaths worldwide. But have patients with rare or underserved conditions been part of the conversation? The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) is currently working to better understand the nature of COVID-19 and vaccines on patients with autoimmune diseases. According to an article on the UPMC website, the University is actually recruiting patients for the CoVER study to evaluate and learn about the effects of the vaccine within this patient population.
Altogether, the study was founded based on the idea that the original vaccine trials failed to include patients with autoimmune diseases. Thus, many researchers and physicians are still unclear how the shot – and its potential side effects – may impact patients. For example, how does the immune system respond to the COVID-19 vaccination? What type of side effects occur? Does the vaccine affect symptom severity or presence?
In particular, the CoVER study is seeking patients with the following diagnoses:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – an estimated 1-2% of people worldwide have rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder which affects numerous joints throughout the body. Many patients with RA experience periods of remission followed by intensely symptomatic periods. This condition is 2-3x more common in females than males. Symptoms include joint, back, and muscle pain; joint stiffness and inflammation; skin lumps or redness; dry mouth; fatigue; and anemia.
- Myositis – polymyositis and dermatomyositis are the two primary forms of myositis, or muscle inflammation and swelling. Symptoms include difficulty breathing or swallowing; muscle pain; difficulty climbing stairs or lifting arms; and fatigue that worsens after physical activity.
- Scleroderma – scleroderma consists of a group of rare conditions characterized by the hardening or thickening of skin and connective tissues. This can be localized or systemic. Outside of skin changes, symptoms include an exaggerated response to emotional distress or cold temperatures; acid reflux; difficulty absorbing nutrients; and changes in heart, lung, or kidney function.
- Sjogren’s Syndrome – An estimated 400,000 to 3.1 million people have Sjogren’s syndrome, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s moisture-producing glands. This condition can be primary or secondary. Symptoms include dry and peeling lips; dry mouth; difficulty talking, chewing, or swallowing; irritated and “gritty” eyes; acid reflux; and joint pain and stiffness.
Participation in the CoVER Study
Interested in participating in this study? To do so, you must be 18+ and have a confirmed diagnosis from a rheumatologist. If you have not already received the COVID-19 vaccine, you must be willing to do so for this study.
Altogether, the CoVER study will take about 12 months to complete. Patients will participate in various visits, phone conversations, and online surveys. Additionally, blood samples are required.
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