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Report: Antibody May Be Detectable in Blood Years Before MS Symptoms Appear

Findings suggest role for KIR4.1 in disease development (February 21)

An antibody found in the blood of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may be present long before the onset of the disease and its symptoms, according to a new study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 66th Annual Meeting, to be held April 26 to May 3 in Philadelphia.

For the study, 16 healthy blood donors who were later diagnosed with MS were compared with 16 healthy blood donors of the same age and sex who did not develop MS. Scientists looked for a specific antibody to KIR4.1. Samples were collected between 2 and 9 months before the first symptoms of MS appeared.

Next, researchers looked at antibody levels in the blood at additional time points up to 6 years before disease onset and then after onset in those who had the KIR4.1 antibody in their blood.

All of the healthy controls tested negative for the KIR4.1 antibody. Of those who later developed MS, seven people tested positive for the antibodies; two showed borderline activity; and seven were negative.

In the study, KIR4.1 antibodies were found in the people with preclinical MS several years before the first clinical manifestation of disease. Concentrations of the antibody varied at different time points during pre-MS in individual people.

“If our results can be replicated in larger populations, our findings may help to detect MS earlier in a subgroup of patients,” said study author Viola Biberacher, MD. “Finding the disease before symptoms appear means we can better prepare to treat and possibly even prevent those symptoms. This finding also demonstrates that the antibody development to the KIR4.1 protein, a protein found in some people with MS, precedes the clinical onset of disease, suggesting a role of the autoantibody in how the disease develops.”

Source: AAN; February 21, 2014.

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