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COVID-19 in teriflunomide-treated patients with multiple sclerosis: A case report and literature review.

  • Capone, Fioravante1
  • Motolese, Francesco2
  • Luce, Tiziano3
  • Rossi, Mariagrazia2
  • Magliozzi, Alessandro2
  • Di Lazzaro, Vincenzo2
  • 1 Neurology, Neurophysiology and Neurobiology Unit, Department of Medicine, Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, Rome, Italy. Electronic address: [email protected] , (Italy)
  • 2 Neurology, Neurophysiology and Neurobiology Unit, Department of Medicine, Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, Rome, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 3 COVID Center 3 Casal Palocco, Regione Lazio, Rome, Italy. , (Italy)
Published Article
Multiple sclerosis and related disorders
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.msard.2020.102734
PMID: 33429305


. Teriflunomide is an immunomodulatory drug approved for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) treatment that inhibits dihydroorotate dehydrogenase, a mitochondrial enzyme involved in the de novo pyrimidine synthesis pathway. This mechanism can produce antiviral effects, thus teriflunomide has gained attention during COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, in the last months, some case-reports have been published describing MS patients treated with teriflunomide who developed mild and self-limiting forms of COVID-19. Here, we describe the case of a 57-year-old man affected by MS, and treated with teriflunomide, who developed a mild form of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Moreover, we provide a detailed literature review about the available cases of COVID-19 in MS patients treated with teriflunomide. We report clinical features, disease course and outcome, and we discuss similarities and differences among patients. Apart from the present report, since February 2020, five papers have been published describing 14 MS patients who developed SARS-CoV-2 infection during teriflunomide treatment. Patients were mostly female (53%), with an average age of 50.5 (±11.3) years. Median EDSS was 2.25 (range 0-6). The average time on treatment with teriflunomide was 3.7 (± 1.6) years. Relevant comorbidities were present in 4 patients (27%). Regarding SARS-CoV-2 infection, the most common symptom was fever (100%) followed by gastrointestinal disturbances (67%), fatigue (55%) and cough (55%). 5 patients were hospitalized and 2 required oxygen support. In patient hospitalized (n=5) compared to the others (n=10), age was significantly higher (59.6 vs 45.9 years, p=0.025) while gender, EDSS, duration of teriflunomide therapy and comorbidities were not significantly different. Outcome was good for all patients with a variable recovery time, ranging from few days to some weeks. Teriflunomide was continued during the entire course of SARS-CoV-2 infection in all patients except for two. Compared to the patients already described, our patient was 7 years older, average time on teriflunomide treatment was about 2.5 years shorter, and median EDSS was 1.5 point lower. Despite significant comorbidities, the outcome was good since our patient was hospitalized but he did not require oxygen supplementation nor intensive care and was able to return at home after only 10 days. Teriflunomide therapy was continued throughout the period. Available data suggest that teriflunomide therapy should not be discontinued in MS patients who develop SARS-CoV-2 infection, also in presence of significant comorbidities or clinical conditions requiring hospitalization. Additional studies are necessary to assess if the drug can also have a protective role against SARS-CoV-2. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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