MS news notes: COVID-19, MS blood tests

Columnist Ed Tobias comments on the week's top MS news

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by Ed Tobias |

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Welcome to “MS News Notes,” a column where I comment on multiple sclerosis (MS) news stories that caught my eye last week. Here’s a look at some of what’s been happening.

MS relapses and COVID-19

Since COVID-19 became a concern over three years ago, I’ve read many comments from people who are worried that the virus can trigger an MS relapse. An analysis discussed in the MS News Today article “COVID-19 not linked to increased MS relapse rate: Meta-analysis” addresses those concerns.

Researchers in Iran and Pakistan reviewed data from 14 studies published between 2021 and 2023 and determined that the facts don’t appear to support that worry.

“The results of this systematic review and meta-analysis did not find any significant association between COVID-19 and MS relapse,” the researchers wrote.

They noted that only 7.71% of the MS patients with COVID-19 experienced a relapse. Also, by comparing 1,003 MS patients with COVID-19 with 1,667 people with MS who didn’t fall ill with the virus, they found that relapse rates were not significantly different.

I had a mild case of COVID-19 last February. While one of my symptoms was a low fever, I didn’t have a relapse.

The researchers added, however, that it’s possible that different strains of the virus might affect the risk of having a relapse, so more research is needed.

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Another possible MS blood test gets a boost

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given a breakthrough device designation to a blood test that could help detect disease activity in adults, ages 18-55, with relapsing types of MS.

The article “FDA names Elecsys NfL blood test for MS a breakthrough device” reports on a test that’s designed to measure the level of neurofilament light chain (NfL) in the blood. NfL is a biomarker for MS nerve damage. Gaining the breakthrough designation allows the test developers to have more frequent interactions with FDA experts and receive priority review of their work, speeding the research and approval process.

Another NfL blood test, using a technology called Simoa, was given breakthrough designation by the FDA in April 2022.

A third MS disease activity blood test is already being used used in routine clinical practice in the U.S. I’ve recently read comments from some people with MS who said that their neurologists have used this test to track their disease’s progression.

Has your doctor mentioned any of these tests to you? Please share in the comments below. 

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


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