Aquaporin-4 antibodies in patients treated with natalizumab for suspected MS

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To evaluate (1) the frequency of aquaporin-4 antibody (AQP4-ab)-seropositive cases among patients treated with natalizumab (NAT) and previously diagnosed with MS (MSNAT) in a nationwide cohort, (2) the clinical course of NAT-treated AQP4-ab–seropositive neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) patients (NMONAT), (3) AQP4-ab titers in NMONAT and AQP4-ab–seropositive NMOSD treated with other immunotherapies (NMOIT), and (4) immune mechanisms influencing disease activity in NMONAT.


MSNAT serum samples were retrospectively screened with a cell-based assay for AQP4-IgG and titers determined by ELISA. The annualized relapse rate (ARR) and disability progression were assessed. Serum levels of proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin [IL]-1β, IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-17, IL-21, and interferon [IFN]-γ) and the chemokine CXCL-10 of NMONAT patients identified in this (n = 4) and a previous study (n = 5) were measured by cytometric bead array and ELISA.


Of the 1,183 MSNAT patients (851 female, median 9 NAT infusions), only 4 (0.33%; 3 female, 1 male) had AQP4-IgG. Of these, 2 fulfilled the 2006 NMO criteria and all met the 2015 NMOSD criteria. The ARR was higher in NMONAT vs MSNAT (p = 0.0182). All 4 NMONAT patients had relapses and 2 had an increase of disability. AQP4-ab titers were higher in NMONAT (n = 9) vs NMOIT (n = 13; p = 0.0059). IL-8, IL-1β, and IFN-γ serum levels were significantly higher, and CXCL-10 was significantly lower in NMONAT vs NMOIT.


Misdiagnosis of NMOSD with MS is rare. NAT was not able to control disease activity in NMONAT patients, who had higher serum levels of AQP4-IgG and proinflammatory cytokines than patients with NMOSD treated with other immunotherapies.

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