A multinational team of researchers found that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on research into rehabilitation and quality of life (QoL) in multiple sclerosis.

“A Wilcoxon signed-rank test found that significantly more researchers reported experiencing barriers to research since the onset of the pandemic compared to pre-COVID-19 (P < .001), with 78% of respondents reporting at least some barriers since COVID-19,” the authors said in their study published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal – Experimental, Translational and Clinical.

Respondents highlighted issues in participant access (n=38) and interruptions/delays to projects (n=19) as the most common barriers. Logistical issues (eg, closure of facilities) or motives related to the participants (eg, fear of contracting COVID-19) were the basis of difficulties in accessing patients.

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Issues related to the participants may persist for some time due to the pandemic anxiety experienced by people with MS, the authors said. However, progresses in population vaccination might help to mitigate these effects. Moreover, online rehabilitation interventions might be a relevant option.

“Given the success of telemedicine and virtual consultations in the clinical management of MS, there is a clear need to further evaluate the efficacy of online rehabilitation interventions, which may offer . . . promising alternatives to face-to-face intervention delivery,” Maguire et al said.

The study’s authors did not find gender differences in the number of barriers reported. However, they found female respondents more likely to report time or competing demands as barriers to research, as well as being more prone to note the negative impact of the pandemic.

In addition, Maguire et al disclosed concern about the potential implications of the lack of preliminary data in future funding and knowledge dissemination in MS.

Respondents (n=87, 76% female) had an average of 10 years of experience in MS rehabilitation and QoL research.


Maguire R, Hynes S, Seebacher B, et al. Research interrupted: the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on multiple sclerosis research in the field of rehabilitation and quality of life. Mult Scler J – Exp Transl Clin. 2021;7(3):205521732110380. doi:10.1177/20552173211038030