What is it about?

The high transmission rate and the global threat posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) led to the rapid development of vaccines. mRNA vaccines are a relatively new type of vaccine that helped greatly in preventing COVID-19. However, the side effects of mRNA vaccines are still being investigated. In this study, the authors report a rare case of transverse myelitis in a 70-year old patient following an mRNA based COVID-19 vaccination. Transverse myelitis is an inflammation of the spinal cord that occurs when the insulating layer covering the nerves (myelin) in the spinal cord is damaged. It can cause sensory and motor problems in patients. In this case, the patient was diagnosed with acute transverse myelitis, in which he developed reduced sensation and weakness in both his legs. The condition was, however, treatable and the patient was able to walk normally.

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Why is it important?

mRNA vaccines signal a new stage in vaccine development. Unlike conventional vaccines, the mRNA vaccine contains genetic information that instructs the cells in the body to produce the spike protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. As a response, the body produces antibodies that recognize the spike protein and help fight the virus. This breakthrough has allowed vaccines to be developed rapidly and mRNA based vaccines are expected to be developed for other diseases. For this reason, it is important to determine the long term side effects that can develop after taking the vaccine. KEY TAKEAWAY: The report suggests that transverse myelitis is related to the expansion of autoreactive T cells by mRNA vaccines. A T cell is a type of white blood cell that is a part of the immune system. In addition to the case reported in this study, there have been other reports of transverse myelitis after vaccination with mRNA vaccines. In light of this, the authors recommend further investigation.

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This page is a summary of: Acute autoimmune transverse myelitis following COVID-19 vaccination, Medicine, December 2021, Wolters Kluwer Health, DOI: 10.1097/md.0000000000028423.
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