To close out the pandemic year 2020, we’ve compiled a list of proposed awards for your consideration in the field of multiple sclerosis.
Timely Announcement Prize:
Winner: The Canadian Network of MS Clinics, for its prompt posting of a Q&A for patients and recommendations on DMT use during the pandemic (https://cnmsc.ca/Announcements).
Unwashed Palm D’or:
Winner: ACTRIMS Forum, held in Palm Beach, Florida, for hosting the last live congress before the pandemic. Following the event, delegates received an email alerting them to possible CoV-2 exposure at the convention centre.
Understatement of the Year Award:
Winner: Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health officer, who stated that COVID-19 “is going to be rare but we are expecting cases.” A day after her announcement, the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency.
Timely Research Tribute:
Winner: The VELOCE study published in October addressed the oft-asked question: does ocrelizumab affect the vaccine response? (Bar-Or et al. Neurology 2020;95:e1999-e2008). The answer: Yes.
Winner: The Global Data Sharing Initiative, which quickly assembled data on MS patients who contracted COVID and the effects of DMTs on clinical outcomes. The much-anticipated findings were presented at ACTRIMS/ECTRIMS 2020 and published in September (Peeters et al. Mult Scler 2020;26:1157-1162).
Sunny Days Research Prize:
Winner: The Sunshine Health Foundation researchers, who warned that insufficient sun exposure has become a public health problem (Alfredsson et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2020:13;17:5014). The group suggested that sun exposure and 25(OH)D levels may be independent risk factors for MS, with sunlight modulating MS risk in part through non-vitamin D pathways.
Runner-up: Donald Trump, who suggested that light therapy – “ultraviolet or just very powerful light” – might cure COVID-19 provided “you brought the light inside of the body, which you can do through the skin or in some other way.”
Winner: The group of researchers who reported that foot reflexology can relieve MS-associated constipation (Sajadi et al. Complement Ther Med 2020;48:102270). Caution is advised during plantar reflex testing.
Winner: The Italian Society of Neurology’s Digital Technologies Web and Social Media Study Group, which suggested that EDSS could be self-assessed remotely with a home neuro kit. A delightful stocking-stuffer, the kit would include a vision card, tuning fork, pin, cotton swab and alcohol swab (Moccia et al. Neurol Sci 2020;41:1369-1371). The idea was first suggested by the UCSF group (Bove et al. Mult Scler 2019;25:1526-1534).
Winner: The Nose. Anosmia emerged as a COVID curiosity but researchers are looking beyond. One paper this year suggested that changes in olfaction may indicate neurodegeneration (Bsteh et al. Mult Scler 2020;26:57-68). This idea could have a good run if researchers don’t blow it.
Word of the Year:
Winner: “Webinar”, cited 279 times on PubMed in 2020, coincidentally the same number of events attended by the average clinician. The high point: a webinar on cannabis use for symptom relief in MS, which boasted over 1,000 registrants (Hildebrand et al. Mult Scler Relat Disord 2020;38:101516). Honorable mention: NeuroSens’ ACTRIMS/ECTRIMS webinar by Dr. Daniel Selchen, which attracted over 100 attendees (shameless plug).
Mutating Acronym Award:
COVID: Unheralded a year ago, runner-up for Word of the Year. As COVID vaccination begins, some have proposed a proof of vaccination, an idea that isn’t playing well with others on the internet. COVID is now being rebranded as Certificate Of Vaccination Identification, which should prove to be a prime Twitter topic in 2021.