Objective: Rheumatic diseases with involvement of the central nervous system (RDwCNS) may mimic multiple sclerosis (MS). Inversely, up to 60% of MS-patients have antinuclear autoantibodies (ANAs) and may be misdiagnosed as RDwCNS. The detection of antibodies against extractable nuclear antigens (ENA) and oligoclonal bands (OCB) are established valuable diagnostic tools in the differential diagnosis of RDwCNS and MS. The MRZ-reaction (MRZR) is defined by three antibody indices (AIs) against neurotropic viruses and is frequently positive in MS. To investigate the added value of MRZR combined with testing for antibodies against ENAs and OCB detection to distinguish RDwCNS from ANA positive MS. Methods: MRZR was evaluated in RDwCNS (n = 40) and 68 ANA positive MS-patients. Two stringency levels, MRZR-1 and MRZR-2 (at least one respectively two of three AIs positive) were applied. Autoantibody testing included ANA plus ENA and anti-dsDNA antibodies, antiphospholipid antibodies, and anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies. Results: Most of the RDwCNS patients (n = 32; 80%) suffered from systemic lupus erythematosus. Within the RDwCNS group 20% had a positive MRZR-1 and 8.5% a positive MRZR-2 compared to 80.9 and 60%, respectively within the MS-group (p < 0.0001 for both comparisons). Oligoclonal bands were found in 28.6% of the RDwCNS patients and 94.3% of the MS-patients (p < 0.0001). Conversely, autoantibodies to specific nuclear antigens or phospholipids were found more frequently in RDwCNS. A positive MRZR in conjunction with the absence of ENA autoantibodies distinguished MS from RDwCNS with high specificity (97.5%). Conclusions: We suggest combining MRZR, OCBs, and specific autoantibody diagnostics to differentiate RDwCNS from MS.
Venhoff, N., Thiel, J., Rizzi, M., Venhoff, A., Rauer, S., Endres, D., … Hottenrott, T. (2019). The MRZ-reaction and specific autoantibody detection for differentiation of ANA-positive multiple sclerosis from rheumatic diseases with cerebral involvement. Frontiers in Immunology, 10(MAR). https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00514