The Potential Role of SARS-CoV-2 Infection and Vaccines in Multiple Sclerosis Onset and Reactivation: A Case Series and Literature Review

Viruses. 2023 Jul 18;15(7):1569. doi: 10.3390/v15071569.


The recent SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and related vaccines have raised several issues. Among them, the potential role of the viral infection (COVID-19) or anti-SARS-CoV-2 vaccines as causal factors of dysimmune CNS disorders, as well as the safety and efficacy of vaccines in patients affected by such diseases and on immune-active treatments have been analyzed. The aim is to better understand the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 infection/vaccines with dysimmune CNS diseases by describing 12 cases of multiple sclerosis/myelitis onset or reactivation after exposure to SARS-CoV-2 infection/vaccines and reviewing all published case reports or case series in which MS onset or reactivation was temporally associated with either COVID-19 (8 case reports, 3 case series) or anti-SARS-CoV-2 vaccines (13 case reports, 6 case series). All the cases share a temporal association between viral/vaccine exposure and symptoms onset. This finding, together with direct or immune-based mechanisms described both during COVID-19 and MS, claims in favor of a role for SARS-CoV-2 infection/vaccines in unmasking dysimmune CNS disorders. The most common clinical presentations involve the optic nerve, brainstem and spinal cord. The preferential tropism of the virus together with the presence of some host-related genetic/immune factors might predispose to the involvement of specific CNS districts.

Keywords: CNS dysimmune disorders; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; multiple sclerosis; myelitis; vaccines.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Vaccines* / adverse effects
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Viral Vaccines


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Viral Vaccines

Grants and funding

This work was supported by Italian Ministry of Health (Ricerca Corrente 2022–2024).