Background: Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) are antibodies present in several autoimmune disorders. However, a large proportion of the general population (20%) also have a positive test; very few of these individuals will develop an autoimmune disease, and the clinical impact of a positive ANA in them is not known. Thus, we test the hypothesis that ANA + test reflects a state of immune dysregulation that alters risk for some clinical disorders in individuals without an autoimmune disease. Methods: We performed high throughput association analyses in a case–control study using real world data from the de-identified electronic health record (EHR) system from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The study population included individuals with an ANA titer ≥ 1:80 at any time (ANA +) and those with negative results (ANA-). The cohort was stratified into sub-cohorts of individuals with and without an autoimmune disease. A phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) adjusted by sex, year of birth, race, and length of follow-up was performed in the study cohort and in the sub-cohorts. As secondary analyses, only clinical diagnoses after ANA testing were included in the analyses. Results: The cohort included 70,043 individuals: 49,546 without and 20,497 with an autoimmune disease, 26,579 were ANA + and 43,464 ANA-. In the study cohort and the sub-cohort with autoimmune disease, ANA + was associated (P ≤ 5 × 10–5) with 88 and 136 clinical diagnoses respectively, including lupus (OR ≥ 5.4, P ≤ 7.8 × 10–202) and other autoimmune diseases and complications. In the sub-cohort without autoimmune diseases, ANA + was associated with increased risk of Raynaud’s syndrome (OR ≥ 2.1) and alveolar/perialveolar-related pneumopathies (OR ≥ 1.4) and decreased risk of hepatitis C, tobacco use disorders, mood disorders, convulsions, fever of unknown origin, and substance abuse disorders (OR ≤ 0.8). Analyses including only diagnoses after ANA testing yielded similar results. Conclusion: A positive ANA test, in addition to known associations with autoimmune diseases, Raynaud’s phenomenon, and idiopathic fibrosing alveolitis related disorders, is associated with decreased prevalence of several non-autoimmune diseases.
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