Many of the MS therapies suppress the immune system, and there has been concern that this may put MS patients at greater risk of COVID-19. If MS therapies suppress the immune system, this might hamper the fight against infection with SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Emerging data from multi-national registries following people with MS suggests that most disease-modifying therapies do not increase the risk of developing severe COVID-19. However treatments that reduce B-cells in the body, such as Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) appear to slightly increase the risk of developing both COVID symptoms and more severe disease. About a third of Australian MS patients (~ 4000-5000 patients) are treated with Ocrevus.
By measuring antibodies against SARS-CoV2 in the blood, we can detect whether someone has been infected. These tests can detect people who have been infected and have not shown any symptoms. It is believed that the true rate of SAR-CoV2 infection maybe 10 times higher if we could detect asymptomatic infections. In order to understand COVID-19 risk in MS, it is essential that we understand the true infection rates, and whether immune response to SARS-CoV2 is different in people on MS therapies.
The team's MS immunology researcher, Associate Professor Fabienne Brilot-Turville, has developed a novel antibody test, superior to available commercial assays, that detects antibody to the “spike protein” of the SARS-CoV2 virus with a high sensitivity and specificity. In this project they will test approximately 600 people with MS treated with a variety of MS therapies. They will monitor levels of antibody to SAR-CoV2 and characterise how strongly the antibodies block the virus in people with MS. This project is the first step to understand the antibody-based immunity to COVID-19 in the MS population in Australia and will give a clearer picture of the risk associated with SARS-CoV2 infection in MS.
Updated 20 January 2021
Updated: 19 January, 2021
Laboratory research that investigates scientific theories behind the possible causes, disease progression, ways to diagnose and better treat MS.
Research that builds on fundamental scientific research to develop new therapies, medical procedures or diagnostics and advances it closer to the clinic.
Clinical research is the culmination of fundamental and translational research turning those research discoveries into treatments and interventions for people with MS.