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Rituximab and risk of COVID-19 infection and its severity in patients with MS and NMOSD

  • Esmaeili, Sara1, 2, 3
  • Abbasi, Mohammad Hossein1, 2, 3
  • Abolmaali, Meysam3
  • Mojtahed, Mohammad2, 3
  • Alavi, Seyedeh Niloufar Rafiei3
  • Soleimani, Sevim4
  • Mokhtari, Mahisa3
  • Hatam, Jaber5
  • Khotbehsara, Samaneh Tanhapour3
  • Motamed, Mohammad Reza3
  • Joghataei, Mohammad Taghi1, 2
  • Mirzaasgari, Zahra3
  • Moghaddasi, Mehdi3
  • 1 Iran university of medical sciences, Tehran, Iran , Tehran (Iran)
  • 2 School of Advanced Technologies in Medicine, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran , Tehran (Iran)
  • 3 Department of Neurology, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran , Tehran (Iran)
  • 4 Shahid Beheshti Medical University, Tehran, Iran , Tehran (Iran)
  • 5 Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran , Tehran (Iran)
Published Article
BMC Neurology
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
May 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s12883-021-02218-4
Springer Nature


BackgroundChoosing a safe disease modifying therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging. This case series study was conducted to determine the incidence rate and the course of Covid-19 infection in MS/NMOSD patients treated with Rituximab.MethodsIn this study, we designed a web-based questionnaire. Baseline information such as patient- reported walking disability, total number of Rituximab infusions received, delayed injections, occurrence of any relapse, and the use of corticosteroids during the pandemic were collected. Also, information regarding the Covid-19 pandemic such as adherence to self-isolation, any recent exposure to an infected individual and the presence of suggestive symptoms were collected. In case of positive test results, patients were grouped into 2 categories; mild to moderate and seriously ill and outcomes were evaluated as favorable (improved/ discharged) and unfavorable (expired).ResultsTwo hundred fifty-eight patients with Multiple Sclerosis were enrolled in this study, 9 of the subjects (3.4%) were confirmed positive for Covid-19, five of which required hospitalizations (55.5%), two patients required ICU admission (22.2%) and 2 two patients died (22.2%). None of these patients ever mentioned using corticosteroids during the pandemic. In comparison to MS patients who were not receiving disease modifying therapy (DMT), our study indicated a higher incidence of Covid-19 infection, higher ratio of serious illness and a higher fatality ratio.ConclusionsRituximab seems not to be safe enough during the pandemic.

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