Preliminary research on Covid-19 in people with MS in Italy offers some reassurance

30 April 2020

People with MS who contracted Covid-19 did no worse than the general population according to preliminary results from Italy.

Researchers in Italy have been collecting data to understand the relationship between MS and Covid-19. They’re trying to understand whether having MS increases the risk of a more severe Covid-19 infection, and whether taking disease modifying drugs may add any extra risk. 

The Italian Multiple Sclerosis Society (AISM), the Italian Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (FISM), and the Multiple Sclerosis Study Group of the Italian Neurological Society set up an online platform to record and collect data about people with MS in Italy who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 or have developed symptoms (suspected Covid-19). MS neurologists across Italy were asked to input data and share patient outcomes. 

Early results from the data they’ve collected so far have now been published. Their preliminary data includes 232 people with MS who have tested positive for Covid-19 (57 people) or have suspected Covid-19 (175 people). Of the 232 people, 211 were taking a disease modifying drug. 

The data recorded the severity of Covid-19 in these 232 people: 

  • 222 (96%) had a mild infection  
  • 4 (2%) had a severe infection 
  • 6 (3%) had a critical infection  

Of those who were critical, one person recovered and five people died. The people who died tended to be older (50+) and have other health conditions.  

It's too early to say from this data whether DMDs make a difference to Covid-19 recovery, but it does not suggest that the current DMD advice should be changed. 

Although this research is preliminary and the numbers are fairly small, these results are reassuring for people with MS. They suggest that having MS doesn’t increase your likelihood of a more severe Covid-19 infection and that the majority of people with MS are likely to have a mild infection, the same as the general population.

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