By Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, February 12, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Researchers who have identified an antibody related to life-threatening autoimmune disorders say their discovery could lead to a faster diagnosis and treatment of these patients.
The researchers identified the myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibody (MOG) in their study of 535 children with demyelinating disorders of the central nervous system and encephalitis.
MOG antibodies damage the protective covering (myelin sheath) that surrounds the nerve fibers of the brain, the optic nerves and the spinal cord, which means that messages cannot be transmitted along these nerves.
Of the 116 children who tested positive for MOG antibodies and received the appropriate treatment, 85% had a complete or almost complete recovery, according to the study published on February 10 in The Lancet Neurology diary.
The findings suggest that the MOG antibody is associated with more deadly autoimmune conditions than previously thought. These include disorders of the spectrum of optic neuromyelitis and encephalitis, which cause severe symptoms of the brain and nervous system, such as loss of vision, muscle weakness and loss of coordination and speech, the researchers said.
This group of neurological disorders can mimic similar conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), making it difficult to diagnose correctly. Until about 10 years ago, patients with these diseases were thought to have atypical forms of MS, and the prognosis and the best treatment methods were unknown.
In the past 10 years, research has shown that several demyelinating diseases are associated with the biomarker of MOG antibodies, and that patients with these diseases often improve with immunotherapy.
However, the best treatment approaches and long-term results remain unclear. This new study suggests that the MOG antibody test could help identify the most beneficial treatment for some of these disorders, the study authors said.
"The diagnosis of many of these patients, especially those with encephalitis, would have been lost if it were not for the prospective design of our study," said study co-leader Thais Armangue of the Children's Hospital Sant Joan de Deu at the University from Barcelona, in Spain.
"Identifying these patients is important because most of the children who tested positive for MOG antibodies responded to treatment with immunotherapy," Armangue added in a magazine press release.
According to the co-author of the study, Josep Dalmau, from the University of Barcelona, "demyelinating diseases in children can be very difficult to distinguish because they present with similar symptoms and imaging characteristics. The correct and early diagnosis allows treatment with immunosuppressants, rather than treatments specifically used in MS that are not effective.In addition, it is important to differentiate between those diseases that do not require chronic treatment and others in which prolonged immunotherapy is needed to improve long-term outcomes. "
The study is "a milestone in the understanding of the syndromes associated with MOG antibodies," wrote Romain Marignier, of the Hopital Neurologique Pierre Wertheimer in France, in an accompanying editorial.