Are MGUS patients at higher risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19?

Do patients with MGUS have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or experience more severe symptoms when infected? 

In this episode, myeloma expert Dr. Brian G.M. Durie discusses if patients with MGUS are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or at an increased risk of having severe COVID-19 symptoms.

The BOTTOM LINE: Patients with MGUS are not at higher risk of contracting or becoming severely ill from COVID-19. However, precautions including vaccination, booster shots, and masking should still be taken. 

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This week’s “Ask Dr. Durie” asks a very important question. A patient with MGUS wants to know if she is at increased risk related to the COVID-19 infection.

The simple answer that we now know is most likely, no, that there’s not an increased risk.

But, let me just summarize. So, MGUS, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, this is the earliest of the diseases related to the development of a monoclonal protein and a plasma cell disease. And so, very, very early, no symptoms. Very, very low levels of protein in the blood and low levels of plasma cells in the bone marrow.

But there has been a concern that such a patient might have an immune-compromised situation. Recently, it was extremely important to see data coming out of the large study in Iceland. The IMF supports a large program there called iStopMM, Iceland Screens, Treats, or Prevents Multiple Myeloma. And they have screened over 80,000 individuals in Iceland and identified over 3,000 individuals who actually had unknown MGUS.

During this pandemic, the doctors in Iceland were able to assess: “Okay, those three thousand individuals with MGUS, did they have more problems with COVID-19 versus the general population?”

And the very good news is that there was no increased risk of developing COVID-19 among the MGUS individuals versus the general population. It was exactly identical.

Also, there were a few people who had MGUS and did get COVID-19, just as there were in the general population. And so, the outcomes were the same, mostly, very, very good without any indication of any predisposition to any sort of high-risk or poorer outcomes.

We have data from other centers around the world that would corroborate this type of finding.

And so, the BOTTOM LINE is good news. MGUS does not have that immune compromise that we see in the later stages of smoldering myeloma and active myeloma. And so, there’s not an increased risk, but like everybody else, MGUS patients should take those normal precautions, get fully vaccinated, get a booster, and also continue with masks and other precautions as needed.

Image of Dr. Brian G.M. DurieProfessor of Medicine, Hematologist/Oncologist, and Honoree MD at the University of Brussels, Dr. Brian G.M. Durie is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Scientific Officer of the IMF. Dr. Durie is also the Chairman of the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG)—a consortium of more than 250 myeloma experts from around the world—and leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative® (BSRI). 


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