The Connection Between COVID-19 & Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System

July 6, 2023

Authors of a literature review recently compiled scientific and clinical observations from the past three years regarding COVID-19 and autoimmunity. These included how a COVID-19 infection can affect the course of autoimmune disease, response to treatment(s), and how autoimmunity affects the severity of a COVID-19 infection. The authors noted the most pertinent findings, including: 

  1. Many reports indicate that autoimmune disease did not significantly impact the course of COVID-19. However, higher mortality and hospitalization rates during COVID-19 were associated with older age, advanced stages of diseases, and comorbidities.
  2. Several reports showed that SARS-CoV-2 infection could exacerbate autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, causing COVID-19-induced relapse of multiple sclerosis. COVID-19 has also been seen to exacerbate myasthenia gravis and contribute to new myasthenia gravis episodes. 
  3. Reports also point out that COVID-19 infection and rarely vaccination has been associated with newly diagnosed autoimmune diseases. These include myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder. 
  4. Some drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases have been tested to treat COVID-19. For example, glucocorticoids, used in treating autoimmune diseases, can also reduce mortality rates during severe COVID-19. The authors point out that in most cases, continuing immunosuppressant therapy is safe. However, they advise that care protocols should be tailored to the individual needs of autoimmune disease patients, especially by their physician.