People with MS are not more susceptible to COVID-19 infection than the UK general population, suggest results of the largest community-based study of COVID-19 in people with MS worldwide [1]. During lockdown, with strict physical distancing measures, disease-modifying treatment (DMT) use or physical disability did not increase the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 or affect recovery from COVID-19.

The results of this study were presented as a late-breaking abstract by Afagh Garjani (University of Nottingham, United Kingdom). The study’s objectives were to evaluate the trend of COVID-19 incidence in MS patients, their behavior in response to the outbreak, and the impact of demographic and clinical characteristics on COVID-19 risk. Participants of the existing United Kingdom MS Register (UKMSR) were asked to answer a COVID-19-related survey at participation and a follow-up survey every 2 weeks, depending on whether they reported COVID-19.

The mean age of the 5,309 participants was 52.4 years, 76.1% were female, and 95.7% were of white ethnicity. The overall incidence of self-diagnosed COVID-19 in this cohort of MS patients was 535 (10.1%). In a time when testing facilities were still very limited, 75 of these 535 COVID-19 cases were also confirmed by RT-PCR test. The COVID-19 incidence peaked during the second week after lockdown started on 23 March 2020 (13.2%) and dropped to 3.5% in the 10th week.
The percentage of patients going into self-isolation during lockdown (23 March – 23 June 2020) was 47%.

The strongest predictor was higher web-based Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score (OR 1.389; 95% CI 1.333-1.447). Other predictors were progressive MS and using monoclonal antibodies or fingolimod. Older age, higher EDSS, or progressive MS lowered the risk of contracting COVID-19. This is not surprising as these populations were more likely to self-isolate. White ethnicity was associated with a significantly lower likelihood of having COVID-19 (OR 0.495; 95% CI 0.347–0.705). Type of MS, disease duration, or using DMT did not alter the likelihood of contracting COVID-19. Of 336 COVID-19 patients of whom data on disease course were available, 249 (74.1%) recovered. These preliminary findings did not show an association between faster recovery and any MS-related factors, including EDSS score or taking DMT.

1. Garjani A. MSVIRTUAL2020, Abstract SS02.01