To understand COVID-19 characteristics in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and identify high-risk individuals due to their immunocompromised state resulting from the use of disease-modifying treatments.
Retrospective and multicenter registry in patients with MS with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis and available disease course (mild = ambulatory; severe = hospitalization; and critical = intensive care unit/death). Cases were analyzed for associations between MS characteristics and COVID-19 course and for identifying risk factors for a fatal outcome.
Of the 326 patients analyzed, 120 were cases confirmed by real-time PCR, 34 by a serologic test, and 205 were suspected. Sixty-nine patients (21.3%) developed severe infection, 10 (3%) critical, and 7 (2.1%) died. Ambulatory patients were higher in relapsing MS forms, treated with injectables and oral first-line agents, whereas more severe cases were observed in patients on pulsed immunosuppressors and critical cases among patients with no therapy. Severe and critical infections were more likely to affect older males with comorbidities, with progressive MS forms, a longer disease course, and higher disability. Fifteen of 33 patients treated with rituximab were hospitalized. Four deceased patients have progressive MS, 5 were not receiving MS therapy, and 2 were treated (natalizumab and rituximab). Multivariate analysis showed age (OR 1.09, 95% CI, 1.04–1.17) as the only independent risk factor for a fatal outcome.
This study has not demonstrated the presumed critical role of MS therapy in the course of COVID-19 but evidenced that people with MS with advanced age and disease, in progressive course, and those who are more disabled have a higher probability of severe and even fatal disease.