RMD OPEN, vol.8, no.2, 2022 (SCI-Expanded)
The current COVID-19 pandemic raises several clinical challenges. Cases of COVID-19-associated arthritis have been reported, and inconsistently described as either COVID-19 viral arthritis or COVID-19 reactive arthritis. We aimed to review all the reported cases of 'COVID-19-associated arthritis', which we propose, is a better term to define the entire spectrum of new-onset arthritis believed to be associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. We performed a systematic literature review using MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews to search for articles published up to 13 December 2021. We included cohort studies, case series and case reports describing patients diagnosed with COVID-19 reactive or viral arthritis by a physician, irrespective of fulfilment of classification criteria. To identify relevant studies, medical subject headings and keywords related to 'COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 infection' and 'reactive arthritis' were used. Our search retrieved 419 articles, of which 31 were included in the review. A total of 33 cases were reported in these 31 articles, the majority being adults (28/33=85%) with peripheral joint involvement (26/33=79%). Most of the patients responded well to treatment and the disease was self-limiting. These 33 case reports describe a possible causal relationship between exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and the onset of arthritis. However, since these cases were reported during a pandemic, other aetiologies cannot be fully excluded. The exact mechanism through which SARS-CoV-2 might trigger arthritis is not fully understood and robust epidemiological data to support a causal relationship are still lacking.