This week saw several bits of information appear that has led me to change my position on several DMTs in terms of their risk for pwMS during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Firstly, the verbal update by Maria Pia-Sormani on the Italian cohort of patients with MS who had COVID-19. These figures were given during the iWiMS weekly COVID-19 &MS webinar. There are now 380 cases of pwMS and COVID-19 reported in the Italian register with only 5 deaths. The mortality rates are well below that of the general population and suggest that pwMS are not at increased risk of severe COVID-19. This is good news. This data also supports the hypothesis that mild-to-moderate immunosuppression may be good and in fact, reduce the chances of pwMS getting severe COVID-19. This is not surprising as severe COVID-19 is almost certainly immune-mediated disorder. The five patients that died (see table below) tended to be older, have more advanced disease and comorbidities.
It is now clear that SARS-CoV-2 is neurotropic with the second, but first published, case of meningoencephalitis with virus detectable in the spinal fluid. This now increases the risk of natalizumab for pwMS. You don’t want to be on natalizumab if SARS-CoV-2 disseminates to the CNS. It is very important that if you are on natalizumab and get COVID-19 that you look-out for CNS symptoms. The fact that most MS centres have shifted their patients onto EID (extended interval dosing) will reduce this risk but it remains concerning. For more information on how EID reduces this risk please see my explanation on MS-Selfie.
At a personal level I have now 6 patients with MS on various DMTs who have all come through having had COVID-19 without any problems. I have asked them to register themselves on the MS register study and I will be reporting them next week.
I would urge you to watch the weekly iWiMS webinar which will keep the MS community up-to-date with what is happening in relation to COVID-19 and MS.
I therefore updated my table and have added a ranking to reflect the changing advice. Please note I have downgraded the risk associated with anti-CD20 therapies based on the emerging evidence as well. More on this later.
Moriguchi et al. A First Case of Meningitis/Encephalitis Associated With SARS-Coronavirus-2. Int J Infect Dis 2020 Apr 3 PMID: 32251791
Novel coronavirus (SARS-Coronavirus-2:SARS-CoV-2) which emerged in Wuhan, China, has spread to multiple countries rapidly. We report the first case of meningitis associated with SARS-CoV-2 who was brought in by ambulance due to a convulsion accompanied by unconsciousness. He had never been to any foreign countries. He felt generalized fatigue and fever (day 1). He saw doctors nearby twice (day2 and 5) and was prescribed Laninamivir and antipyretic agents, His family visited his home and found that he was unconsciousness and lying on the floor in his vomit. He was immediately transported to this hospital by ambulance (day 9). Under emergency transport, he had transient generalized seizures that lasted about a minute. He had obvious neck stiffness. The specific SARS-CoV-2 RNA was not detected in the nasopharyngeal swab but was detected in a CSF. Anti- HSV 1 and varicella-zoster IgM antibodies were not detected in serum samples. A brain MRI showed hyperintensity along the wall of right lateral ventricle and hyperintense signal changes in the right mesial temporal lobe and hippocampus, suggesting the possibility of SARS-CoV-2 meningitis. This case warns the physicians of patients who have CNS symptoms.