Poster presenter: Akhil Sood, MD, University of Texas Medical Branch
Poster Session A
8:30 – 10:30 a.m. ET Saturday, Nov. 6
All ACR Convergence 2021 poster presentations are available on demand to registered meeting participants through March 11, 2022.
What is your poster about?
My project looks at the efficacy of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in patients with rheumatic diseases. Efficacy is defined as development of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 virus following completion of vaccine series. Interestingly, we found that most patients developed an immune response after receiving the vaccine. However, when compared to the general population, the response rate was significantly lower. This is likely driven by certain immunosuppressants, including rituximab and mycophenolate.
Why did you decide to investigate this topic?
At the onset of the pandemic, the big question was whether patients with rheumatic disease are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 infection. This led me to study the prevalence and outcomes of COVID-19 in patients with rheumatic diseases using available literature during the early part of the pandemic. The majority of the studies were published prior to the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has demonstrated efficacy in large clinical trials. However, the effectiveness of the vaccine in patients with rheumatic disease is not well understood. This led me to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the efficacy of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in this population.
What are you working on next related to this research?
We are starting to see breakthrough infections following the emergence of variants, notably Delta. I am curious to see the incidence of breakthrough infections among rheumatic disease patients. This can yield more insight into the efficacy of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, as well as risk factors for breakthrough infection. This information can also help us identify patients who may benefit from an additional dose of the vaccine. There also has been some concern regarding flare of underlying rheumatic disease after vaccination. So far studies have not reported any safety concerns, but this is another area which I am interested in studying.
What excites you most about your work?
The development of highly effective vaccines in less than a year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was a highlight of medical research. While the COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be effective in lowering the risk for infection, we are still trying to identify ways to improve the response of the vaccine among patients requiring lifelong immunosuppressants. This has fueled my interest in understanding the intricacies of immunology.
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