Alopecia areata and risk of common infections: a population-based cohort study.
Messenger AG., Harries M., Macbeth AE., Chiu WS., Holmes S., Tziotzios C., de Lusignan S.
BackgroundIt is not known whether alopecia areata (AA) is associated with a greater or reduced risk for infection.AimWe undertook a population-based study exploring associations between AA and common infections.MethodsWe extracted primary care records from the UK Oxford-Royal College of General Practitioners Research and Surveillance Centre database (trial registration: NCT04239521). The incidence of common and viral infection composite outcomes, and individual respiratory, gastrointestinal (GI), skin, urinary tract, genital and herpes infections, were compared in people with AA (AA group, n = 10 391) and a propensity-matched control group (n = 41 564). Adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs), controlling for sociodemographic and clinical covariates, and comorbidities were used to estimate the association between AA and each infection over 5 years.ResultsThe incidence (per 100 person-years) of common infections was slightly higher in the AA group [14.2, 95% confidence interval (CI) 13.8-14.6] than the control group (11.7, 95% CI 11.5-11.9). In adjusted analysis, positive associations were observed for composite outcomes (common infections aHR 1.13, 95% CI 1.09-1.17; viral infections aHR 1.11, 95% CI 1.07-1.16) and with respiratory tract, GI, skin and herpes simplex infections (aHR range 1.09-1.32). Excluding people in the control group without a recent consultation with their general practitioner showed no association between AA and infection (common infections aHR 1.01, 95% CI 0.98-1.05, viral infections aHR 0.99, 95% CI 0.95-1.03).ConclusionsThe association between AA and common infection may represent a higher propensity of people with AA to engage with healthcare services (and thereby to have infections recorded), rather than a true association between AA and infection. Overall our findings suggest that AA is not associated with a clinically significantly increased or decreased incidence of common infections.