The histologic and molecular correlates of COVID-19 vaccine-induced changes in the skin.

Journal: Clinics In Dermatology

A total of 22 patients who had developed an adverse cutaneous reaction to the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine underwent biopsies. Each patient was assessed light microscopically, and, in select biopsies, spike glycoprotein and cytokine assessment were also conducted. The patients developed self-limited cutaneous reactions often described clinically as urticarial or eczematous within 1 day to 4 weeks after receiving the first or second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Classic clinical and morphologic depictions of type IV cutaneous hypersensitivity with features of eczematous dermatitis, interface dermatitis, granulomatous inflammation, and/or lymphocytic vasculitic component were observed. Clinical and/or histologic features of perniosis, pityriasis rosea, pityriasis rubra pilaris, and guttate psoriasis were seen in select cases. In 2 cases the dominant picture was urticarial vasculitis, possibly reflective of an Arthus type III immune complex action. The biopsy specimens of normal skin post vaccine and of skin affected by the post-vaccine eruption showed rare deep microvessels positive for spike glycoprotein with no complement deposition contrasting with greater vascular deposition of spike protein and complement in skin biopsies from patients experiencing severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It is concluded that self-limited hypersensitivity reactions to the vaccine occur possibly owing to a substance found in the vaccine vehicle (eg, polyethylene glycol). An immune response that is directed against human-manufactured spike has to be considered because some of the reactions clinically and or histologically closely resemble mild COVID-19. Finally, vaccine-associated immune enhancement largely attributable to the adjuvant properties of the vaccine may unmask certain inflammatory milieus operational in psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and subclinical hypersensitivity.

Cynthia Magro, Neil Crowson, inda Franks, anta Rouhani Schaffer, atrick Whelan, erard Nuovo

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