Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2021 Feb 15;203:106563. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2021.106563. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Iran is one of the countries with a high prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) and COVID-19.MS patients receiving the immunomodulatory or immunosuppressive therapy have a higher risk of infection. Due to the significance of determining the risk factors for getting COVID-19 among MS patients, the present study was designed to assess the risk of infection following the pulse steroid therapy.
METHODS: This cross-sectional study included all MS patients that received corticosteroids in Tehran from December 2019 to August 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic spread. The subjects’ clinical records including their sex, age, the type of MS, the type of medication, the number of days using corticosteroids, the status of prednisolone intake, and the number of days receiving prednisolone after the corticosteroid therapy were obtained. Moreover, main outcomes such as COVID-19 infection and the occurrence of death were recorded by patient’s visits and follow-up phone calls. COVID-19 infection was confirmed by physicians according to the clinical performance of RT-PCR, chest CT scan, and antibody tests.
RESULTS: Totally, 133 MS cases participated in the study, and the pulse therapy was completed for 104 (78.2%) patients up to 5-7 days. 89 (66.9%) cases used the prednisolone tablet following the pulse therapy. Overall, the infection by Covid-19 was observed in 8 (6%) cases, among whom 5 (71.4%) cases received the pulse therapy for 5-7 days and 4 (57.1%) cases had a history of taking the prednisolone tablet. The age of less than 40 years (OR = 1.03; 95% CI (0.23-4.51)), male sex (OR = 0.35; 95% CI (0.03-3.34)), and the RRMS type (OR = 2.87; 95% CI (0.52-15.72)) had no effect on the risk of Covid-19 infection. In addition, there was not statistically significant difference between subjects with the short-term pulse therapy duration (3-4 days) (OR 0.68 (0.12-3.74) and those with the long-term pulse therapy duration (5-7 days). Similarly, no statistically significant difference was observed between subjects taking prednisolone (OR = 1.62 (0.34-7.61) and those not taking prednisolone. Furthermore, there was no significant association between different medication groups and the risk of Covid-19 infection (p < 0.05). No death occurred due to Covid-19 infection among the subjects.
CONCLUSION: COVID-19 infection was more common among female and younger patients as well as patients with a longer duration of the pulse therapy and prednisolone intake. There was no significant association between the pulse steroid therapy in MS patients and the risk of infection by COVID-19 in the Iranian population.