A new research project born out of the current COVID-19 pandemic will track the moods of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) over time to monitor its effect on accelerating the progression of the disease.
Swansea University is the home for the UK Multiple Sclerosis Register, which captures data about living with MS in the UK, to support research into the condition.
Swansea researchers from the UK MS Register team have been working on the new project with the Nottingham MS Research Group and colleagues from Imperial College London. The pioneering new collaboration encompasses two projects, one of which has already started sharing findings as the data sets have been analysed, to provide real-time results and reduce the delay it can often take research to benefit patients.
Funded by the UK’s MS Society, the project is one of the first studies to provide evidence-based recommendations for clinicians and people living with MS on how the disease modifying therapies, that are used to manage MS, can be affected by COVID-19.
The project includes a sub-study to explore how COVID-19 is affecting the mood and psychological wellbeing of people with MS. This is important because this kind of pandemic, and the associated loneliness caused by isolation, can lead to future mental health problems for many. As it is acknowledged that high levels of anxiety can also lead to MS relapses, the research teams want to urgently track people’s mood, and find ways of helping them deal with these problems.
Over 4,000 people living with MS have already taken part in the project and are followed up fortnightly by the research team. Anyone who signs up to participate in the research project will be followed during the pandemic and for some time afterwards too.
Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Director of Research and External Affairs at the MS Society, said:
“Over 130,000 of us live with MS in the UK and, while this is a time of uncertainty for everyone, many people with MS are especially vulnerable. Although having MS in itself does not increase your risk of getting COVID-19, it can mean an increased risk of infection or severe complications. We’re doing everything we can to be there for the community, but we know lots of people are worried and confused. This study will allow us to understand how the virus is really affecting those living with MS, provide better recommendations on treatment moving forward, and support people as best we can during this difficult time.”
Rod Middleton of Swansea University, Programme Manager for UK MS Register, said:
“Having established the MS Register in 2011 and carried out a number of important epidemiological and clinical studies in MS, Swansea University Medical School is delighted with the response to this sub-study on COVID-19. We have always focused the Register on being relevant to the needs of people with MS and researchers and our ability to respond quickly to this pandemic is a credit to all our participants, partner NHS sites, the Register team at Swansea University and our collaborators on this study.”
If you have MS and concerns about COVID19 please consider joining the MS register study to help us understand its impact at: www.ukmsregister.org