According to the researchers, this is a greater prevalence rate than for many other inflammatory disorders, such as vasculitis and myeloid dysplasia syndrome.
“Our study offers the first glimpse of just how common VEXAS syndrome is in the United States, particularly among men, who also happen to be the most to die from it,” says Dr. Beck, who is leading several clinical research efforts into VEXAS syndrome at NYU Langone’s Center for Human Genetics and Genomics.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on January 24
VEXAS (vacuoles, E1-ubiquitin-activating enzyme, X-linked, autoinflammatory, somatic) syndrome is a disease with rheumatologic and hematologic features caused by somatic variants in UBA1. Pathogenic variants are associated with a broad spectrum of clinical manifestations. Knowledge of prevalence, penetrance, and clinical characteristics of this disease have been limited by ascertainment biases based on known phenotypes. In 163 096 participants (mean age, 52.8 years; 94% White; 61% women), 11 individuals harbored likely somatic variants at known pathogenic UBA1 positions, with 11 of 11 (100%) having clinical manifestations consistent with VEXAS syndrome (9 male, 2 female). A total of 5 of 11 individuals (45%) did not meet criteria for rheumatologic and/or hematologic diagnoses previously associated with VEXAS syndrome; however, all individuals had anemia (hemoglobin: mean, 7.8 g/dL; median, 7.5 g/dL), which was mostly macrocytic (10/11 [91%]) with concomitant thrombocytopenia (10/11 [91%]). Among the 11 patients identified, there was a pathogenic variant in 1 male participant prior to onset of VEXAS-related signs or symptoms and 2 female participants had disease with heterozygous variants. A previously unreported UBA1 variant (c.1861A>T; p.Ser621Cys) was found in a symptomatic patient, with in vitro data supporting a catalytic defect and pathogenicity. Together, disease-causing UBA1 variants were found in 1 in 13 591 unrelated individuals (95% CI, 1:7775-1:23 758), 1 in 4269 men older than 50 years (95% CI, 1:2319-1:7859), and 1 in 26 238 women older than 50 years (95% CI, 1:7196-1:147 669).