The number of patients with myasthenia gravis (MG) affected by COVID-19 increased over the early stages of the pandemic, according to a survey of the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America MG Patient Registry published in the journal Muscle and Nerve.

Patients with MG living in a household with a larger number of individuals and those with unstable disease were at a higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the study found.

The aim of the researchers was to explore the risk factors associated with COVID-19 among patients with MG and to characterize their behavior during the pandemic.

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The team, led by Ikjae Lee, MD, from the Department of Neurology at Columbia University, in New York, New York, sent a COVID-19 survey to patients on the MG Patient Registry during the summer of 2020 and the winter of 2021. 

A total of 1445 patients completed the surveys. The researchers found that the frequency of COVID-like symptoms was similar between the 2 surveys. 

However, exposure to, testing for, and diagnosis of COVID-19 were higher during the winter of 2021 than during the summer of 2020 among patients with MG. More precisely, exposure to COVID-19 was 6% during the summer of 2020, while it was 27% during the winter of 2021.

Similarly, 35% of individuals who were symptomatic tested for COVID-19 during the summer of 2020, while this percentage rose to 78% during the winter of 2021. Finally, COVID-19 was diagnosed in 0.2% of the patients in the registry during the summer of 2020 and 6% of the patients in the registry during the winter of 2021.

Symptoms, such as cough, fever, fatigue, and loss of taste and smell and admission to the hospital or the intensive care unit were more frequent among MG patients diagnosed COVID-19 compared to those with symptoms but not diagnosed with the disease. 

Independent risk factors associated with COVID-19 in patients with MG were exposure to the infection, the number of people in their household, and MG exacerbation before the pandemic.

“Our study identified risk factors of COVID-19 infection in a large MG cohort and demonstrated the evolving impact of COVID-19 in this population through the first year of the pandemic,” the researchers wrote. 

Reference

De León AM, Aban I, McPherson T, et al. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with myasthenia gravis: a survey of the myasthenia gravis foundation of America MG patient registry. Muscle Nerve. Published online November 2, 2022. doi:10.1002/mus.27743