A sudden increase in Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS)—a rare and potentially fatal skin disorder—may be triggered by COVID-19, increased vaccination rates, or a lowered threshold caused by vaccines or previous infection, according to a large case series recently published in the medical journal Burns.
While SJS isn’t caused by fire, it is typically treated by burn units in hospitals because of its similarities to actual burns.
Researchers with the burns unit at Concord Repatriation General Hospital in Australia saw two to four cases of SJS, or toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), per year prior to COVID-19. In the first six months of 2022 alone, the same burn center observed a sevenfold rise in cases.
Of the 14 reported cases, five patients had COVID-19 a month before developing SJS/TEN, and three of 14 patients received a COVID-19 vaccine one month prior. Not a single case of SJS/TEN was reported in an unvaccinated individual.
Researchers said the rarity of the condition and presence of medications known to trigger the disease make the link difficult to prove, but the rapid rise in cases since the beginning of the pandemic and vaccine rollout is “alarming.”
SJS/TEN is a severe hypersensitivity condition where the skin develops rashes, blisters, and peels forming painful areas that resemble a severe hot water burn. Mucous membranes, including the eyes, genitalia, and mouth, are often affected or severely damaged, leading to sepsis, pneumonia, infection, or death….