MS in Egypt: Doctors shed light on the challenges and new treatments

Ingy Deif, Sunday 15 May 2022

The MS Chapter of the Egyptian Society of Neurology Psychiatry and Neurosurgery (ESNPN) and the Egyptian Society of MS, in collaboration with the private sector, convened to shed light on the disease in Egypt, its challenges, and latest breakthroughs.

MS conference in Egypt 2022


Imagine a young man or woman, as young as 20 years old, struck by an immunity disease and facing the possibility of a disability that affects whether they can talk, walk, and live normally within a few years.

That is the tragedy of MS, if left untreated.

Multiple sclerosis or MS is a disease whose reasons are still shrouded in mystery.

For some reason, the autoimmune system attacks its own tissues, eventually destroying a fatty substance that protects nerve fibres in the brain and the spinal cord.

In Egypt, the Ministry of Health and Population’s statistics show that MS cases comprise 1.4% of all neurological diseases.

The latest edition of the Atlas of MS shows there are 2.8 million people living with MS around the world.

The data released in 2020 indicated that almost 59,670 people are living with MS in Egypt. This equates to one in every 1,500 people.

The major problem with MS is that it usually strikes at a very early age, affecting those between the ages of 20 and 40 in 70% of cases.

On 12 May, doctors from the ESNPN and the Egyptian Society of MS, in collaboration with the private sector’s pharmaceutical Novartis, convened to shed light on the disease in Egypt, its challenges, and latest breakthroughs.

“MS has been categorised as the most common immunological demyelinating disease to affect the central nervous system,” said Dr Magd Fouad Zakaria — professor of neurology at Ain Shams University and president of the Egyptian Society of MS.

Zakaria stressed that almost 60% of people with MS require walking assistance within 20 years of the onset of the disease.

He added that a timely diagnosis, early treatment, and innovative therapies can reduce the disabling progress of the disease, allowing patients to lead as normal a life as possible for as long as possible.

The panel then differentiated between the various types of MS.

“MS can be segmented into relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) and primary progressive multiple sclerosis. Our focus today is on SPMS,” said Dr Maged Abdel-Nasser — professor of neurology at Cairo University.

Abdel-Nasser then explained that SPMS patients represent 20% of total MS patients in Egypt.

“Although every patient’s MS journey is unique, up to 40% of RRMS patients will eventually transition to SPMS within six to 10 years of RRMS onset,” he said.

One of the highlights of the conference was shedding light on breakthroughs and new treatment representing hope for SMPS patients.

“The new treatments reduce the risk of confirmed disability progression, demonstrating a delay of disability for up to five years in patients with SPMS.” Abdel-Nasser added.

The panel then spoke of the positive progress achieved in Egypt in tackling the problem of MS.

Zakaria then said that healthcare for MS patients has undergone significant development since the Egyptian government’s decision to bear the costs of treatment in 2015.

He added that efforts have been made to improve the diagnosis and management of cases, including the establishment of medical MS units, which began as central units and were then expanded to cover the entire country.

The doctors also explained that the government’s decision to support the expenditures of disease-modifying drugs (DMDs), establish MS units, implement MS case registration, and develop statistics for the disease in Egypt has led to unanimous praise by specialists treating the disease. 

Moreover, it has helped underline the importance of early diagnosis in MS and the comprehensive management of cases.

According to the statistics provided by the World Health Organisation, a total number reaching up to 2.8 million patients worldwide were affected by MS.

Furthermore, it was noted that women are twice as likely to develop MS.

After road accidents, MS is regarded as the second most common cause of disability around the world.

The doctors stressed that the earlier treatment begins, the better chances a patient has to remain in the first stage of the disease and not progress to more advanced stages.

They added that awareness is pivotal, as successful treatment for this disease is based on early detection and therefore there is a need for comprehensive awareness and education campaigns, as MS is often mistaken for other diseases, such as rheumatoid and lupus, which manifest with similar symptoms that include numbness in the extremities, double vision, and exhaustion.

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