E015 A case of ocular myasthenia gravis seen by rheumatology as suspected mononeuritis multiplex in an adult male shortly after Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccination

Alice Storrie, Ryan M Hum, Pauline Ho

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Background/Aims Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an antibody-mediated autoimmune disease targeting proteins at the postsynaptic membrane of the neuromuscular junction. MG is thought to occur in genetically susceptible individuals following an environmental trigger. SARS-CoV-2 infection has been associated with new-onset autoimmune disease, new-onset MG, and exacerbations of pre-existing MG, with molecular mimicry between SARS-CoV-2 epitopes and autoantigen-induced autoreactivity thought to be part of the underlying mechanism. We report a case of newonset ocular MG following first dose Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 SARS-COV2 vaccination which was referred to rheumatology as suspected mononeuritis multiplex. Methods A 53-year-old man of East Asian ethnicity presented to the emergency department (ED) with sudden onset diplopia and left lateral gaze restriction 7 days after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 SARS-COV2 vaccination. He had longstanding myopia and dry eyes but no other medical history, no regular medications or significant family history. He was a current smoker, with a 50-pack year history. He did not drink alcohol or use any recreational drugs. He was found to have an isolated left VI cranial nerve (CN) palsy with an otherwise normal ocular and physical examination. Blood tests were unremarkable apart from raised cholesterol, and he was discharged with a suspected self-limiting microvascular CN lesion. Three weeks later he presented to ED with worsening diplopia, increasingly restricted eye movements, headache, nausea, vomiting and blurred vision. Ophthalmology assessment noted new right sided CN III and VI palsy, persistent left CN VI palsy, and vertical diplopia in all fields of gaze. Neurological and physical examination were normal. Bloods including an autoimmune screen were unremarkable. SARS-CoV-2 Spike antibodies were positive consistent with SARS-CoV-2 vaccination but not infection. Intracranial and thoracic imaging were unremarkable. He was referred to and seen by both rheumatology and neurology as a case of suspected mononeuritis multiplex. Results A diagnosis of ocular MG was confirmed with positive serum acetylcholine receptor antibodies, and he was started on prednisolone, and pyridostigmine to good effect. Daily forced vital capacity (FVC) showed no respiratory muscle involvement, and nerve conduction studies and electromyography were normal, excluding secondary generalisation. Conclusion A review of the literature found 14 reported cases of new-onset MG all within 4 weeks following SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Whilst these cases provide interesting insights into the pathogenesis of autoimmune conditions such as MG, they are not epidemiological studies to inform vaccine safety. Ultimately, current evidence suggests that the risks of SARS-COV-2 infection outweigh the risk of vaccine-related adverse events, therefore we suggest clinicians should be aware of potential new-onset autoimmune conditions, but support the safety of SARSCOV2 vaccination. Further, research into possible immunological mechanisms behind this phenomenon, including identifying potential epitopes inducing molecular mimicry, could help establish the likelihood of a causative link.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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