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MRI preclinical detection and asymptomatic course of a progressive multifocal leucoencephalopathy (PML) under natalizumab therapy
  1. Rémy Phan-Ba1,
  2. Emilie Lommers1,
  3. Luaba Tshibanda2,
  4. Philippe Calay1,
  5. Bernard Dubois3,
  6. Gustave Moonen1,
  7. David Clifford4,
  8. Shibeshih Belachew1
  1. 1Department of Neurology, Myelin Disorder Research Team (MYDREAM), CHU of Liege, Liège, Belgium
  2. 2Department of Neuroradiology, CHU of Liege, Liège, Belgium
  3. 3Department of Nephrology, CHU of Liege, Liège, Belgium
  4. 4Melba and Forest Seay Clinical Neuropharmacology in Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rémy Phan-Ba, Myelin Disorder Research Team (MYDREAM), Department of Neurology, CHU of Liege, Avenue de l'Hôpital, 1, Liège 4000, Belgium; remy.phanba{at}


Early detection of progressive multifocal leucoencephalopathy (PML) in the setting of natalizumab therapy currently is performed by rapid evaluation of new symptoms occurring in treated patients. The role of MR scanning has not been investigated but holds promise since MR detection is highly sensitive for PML lesions. The authors report a case of presymptomatic PML of the posterior fossa detected by MR scans. Immediate suspension of natalizumab and plasma exchanges resulted in a rapid decline of natalizumab serum concentration. Intravenous steroids started together with plasma exchanges followed by an oral tapering course were used to minimise the immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome. No symptoms (beyond mild headache) developed, and the repeat PCR for JC Virus (JCV) DNA detection performed 10 weeks later was negative. This case suggests that: (1) periodic brain MR scans may detect signs of presymptomatic PML in MS patients treated with natalizumab, (2) corticosteroid management of inflammatory reaction may contribute to optimal control of the immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome routinely seen with natalizumab-associated PML and (3) early radiological detection of PML can have an excellent outcome even in a clinically critical region and despite prior immunosuppressant exposure. The potential benefit of regular MR scanning just using the T2/FLAIR modalities could be further investigated in order to detect early natalizumab-associated PML, leading to benign outcomes.

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • neurobiology

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the ethical committee of the CHU of Liège, Belgium.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.