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People with neuromuscular conditions could be high-risk for COVID-19, according to UB research

“Neuromuscular patients on immunotherapy and those with respiratory dysfunction secondary to their neuromuscular disease should be considered high risk."

As the pandemic continues on, many people wonder how COVID-19 would impact them, especially for people with pre-existing conditions.

A University at Buffalo researcher has conducted an intensive literary review of COVID-19 and people with neuromuscular conditions, which is being published in the RRNMF Neuromuscular Journal. The researcher and his co-authors believe that people with neuromuscular conditions should be considered high risk for COVID-19.

By looking at a total of 547 English-language medical publications, Gil I. Wolfe, MD, and his co-authors found that COVID-19 infection can bring on neuromuscular conditions for people who may have not had one before catching the coronavirus. 

Additionally,  Wolfe and his co-authors say that the virus “can exacerbate symptoms in patients with pre-existing conditions and who are being treated with immunotherapies.”

Wolfe is also a professor and chairman in the Department of Neurology at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, as well as the president of UBMD Neurology. Wolfe analyzed articles that had been published from the start of the pandemic, up until June 18.

“Although neuromuscular complications of COVID-19 have not received as much publicity as stroke complications, they are being increasingly reported,” Wolfe said.  “Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a severe life-threatening paralyzing neuropathy that is a complication of many viral infections, has now been seen in COVID-19 patients in many countries, including the United States.”

In the articles, Wolfe found that GBS had been documented in COVID-19 patients 27 times since the start of the pandemic. No fatalities were reported from the cases of GBS, and 16 of those patients improved, or achieved full or near full recovery. Nine of the patients didn’t show improvement or got worse.

Myopathy and hyperCKemia, two other neuromuscular disorders, were also found as complications of COVID-19.

UB says the literature also suggested that people with pre-existing neuromuscular disorders such as myasthenia gravis (MG), may be at greater risk of contracting the virus and the virus might exacerbate their condition, as well.

Wolfe and the other researchers concluded in their study, based on their research, that “neuromuscular patients on immunotherapy and those with respiratory dysfunction secondary to their neuromuscular disease should be considered high risk for severe COVID -19 infection and complications," according to UB.

The study is titled “Neuromuscular Complications of COVID-19: A Review of the Literature,” and was co-authored by Tiffany Pike-Lee, MD, and Yuebing Li, MD, both of the Neuromuscular Center, Department of Neurology, at the Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.