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07-07-2011 | Article

Patients with psoriasis ‘prone to serious infections’

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: People with psoriasis are one-and-a-half times as likely to contract serious infectious diseases as people without the skin condition, researchers report.

The Dutch investigators are unable to explain why people with psoriasis are particularly prone to developing infections, but say they do not believe that antipsoriasis medications are to blame.

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. It is a long-lasting (chronic) disease that results from abnormal activity of the body's immune system.

In this study, Tamar Nijsten (Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam) and colleagues wanted to see if patients with psoriasis have a different risk for infections as compared with the general population - either because of the psoriasis itself or the drugs used to treat it.

The researchers compared 25,742 people with psoriasis and 128,710 individuals without the disease ("controls"). Both groups were monitored for an average of 6 years, during which time twice as many psoriasis patients were hospitalized with an infectious disease as were controls.

The most frequent infectious diseases affecting patients involved the respiratory tract, abdomen, and skin.

The researchers then probed the patients' medical records in greater depth. They found that patients who were hospitalized with an infectious disease tended to have more severe psoriasis than those who did not develop an infection.

People with severe psoriasis may have a higher frequency of other illnesses, unhealthy lifestyle factors, or generalized inflammation, write Nijsten and co-workers in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Any one of these factors could predispose patients to contracting infections, they note.

Importantly, however, patients who developed an infectious disease were no more likely than others to be taking systemic drugs to treat their psoriasis. This argues against recent suggestions that certain antipsoriasis medications make patients susceptible to infection.

The researchers call for further studies to investigate this issue and conclude: "The risk of severe infections was significantly higher for patients with psoriasis compared with control subjects and could not be explained by exposure to systemic antipsoriatic drugs."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Joanna Lyford