Rinsho Shinkeigaku (Clinical Neurology)

Case Report

Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy in a patient with rheumatoid arthritis under salazosulfapyridine treatment

Tomoko Okazaki, M.D.1), Daichi Kodama, M.D.1), Misaki Yamadera, M.D., Ph.D.2), Yasuko Sugiyama, M.D.1), Hiromi Tsuji, M.D.2), Fukuko Nishida, M.D.1), Yoko Ooka, M.D.1), Kazuo Nakamichi, Ph.D.3), Kazuo Hashikawa, M.D., Ph.D.1) and Takehiko Yanagihara, M.D.1)4)

1) Department of Neurology, Osaka Police Hospital
2) Department of Pathology, Osaka Police Hospital
3) Department of Virology 1, National Institute of Infectious Diseases
4) Osaka Neurological Research Institute

Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a rare opportunistic infection caused by JC virus (JCV) activation. We report an 85-years old man who had been diagnosed to have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) 1.5 years prior to diagnosis of PML, and had been treated with salazosulfapyridine (SASP). He developed weakness of the left upper limb, which progressed gradually for two months. A neurological examination on admission revealed severe palsy of the left upper limb without sensory disturbance, cognitive decline or gait disturbance. Brain MRI revealed white matter lesions in the right frontal lobe around the precentral gyrus. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) examination and peripheral lymphocyte counts were normal. HIV was ruled out serologically. There were no findings suggestive of malignancy. We suspected PML and stopped SASP. JCV-DNA was detected in CSF. There were enlarged nuclei positive with VP-1 immunostaining in the brain biopsy materials. Thus, the diagnosis of PML was definitive. Paralysis of the left upper limb began to improve one week after discontinuing SASP. Treatment with mefloquine and mirtazapine was initiated, but he developed severe interstitial pneumonia, which might be caused by mefloquine. Therefore, he underwent rehabilitation without medication. JCV-DNA became undetectable and white matter lesions decreased 6 months later. Paralysis improved and he had no problem with activities of daily living a year later. The risk factor for PML has changed over the last decade, and drugs such as biologics became significant risk factors for patients with autoimmune diseases. There are reports suggesting that systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and RA themselves might be independent risk factors for PML. Although there is no previous report of SASP inducing PML, SASP might be the culprit in our case. However, there is another possibility that SAPS and RA worked synergistically for the onset of PML.
Full Text of this Article in Japanese PDF (2447K)

(CLINICA NEUROL, 61: 833|838, 2021)
key words: progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, rheumatoid arthritis, salazosulfapyridine

(Received: 30-Mar-21)