School of Medicine

Study: COVID-19 death risk higher for people with severe MS disability

Older adults with severe disability due to multiple sclerosis are 25 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those with more mild forms of the neurological disorder, a study published Friday by JAMA Neurology found.

These same patients with multiple sclerosis are up to four times as likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms and require hospital care after getting infected with the virus, the data showed.

In addition, MS patients treated with corticosteroids like prednisone — a common class of drugs used in people with the condition — are three times as likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and four times as likely to die from the disease compared to those who do not use these medications.

Similarly, those treated with rituximab — a man-made antibody therapy marked under the brand name Rituxan and used in the treatment of autoimmune disorders such as MS — are nearly five times as likely to develop severe COVID-19 and up to three times as likely to die from it compared to people not on the drug.

“Our study identified some MS-specific risk factors, such as ambulatory disability, treatment with rituximab and recent corticosteroid use, that are associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes,” study co-author Amber Salter, PhD told UPI in an email.

“Adhering to the public health recommendations such as wearing a mask, social distancing, etc., are important for individuals with MS to reduce their risk of COVID-19,” said Salter, an assistant professor of biostatistics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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