Changes of circulating thyroid autoantibody levels during and after therapy with methimazole in patients with Graves’ disease

C. Marcocci, L. Chiovato, S. Mariotti, A. Pinchera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The changes occurring in the levels of circulating thyroid microsomal antibody (M-Ab) and antithyroglobulin antibody (Tg-Ab) during antithyroid drug therapy were studied in 32 patients receiving methimazole for Graves’ disease. M-Ab was determined by competitive binding radioassay and Tg-Ab by a sandwich radiometric method. Before treatment 25 subjects (78.1%) had abnormally elevated (≥ 75 U/ml) M-Ab levels. A more than 30% reduction of M-Ab concentration with respect to the pretreatment value was found in 16 (64.0%) of these patients within the first 3–5 months of therapy, in 23 (92.0%) within 8–11 months and in 21 (84.0%) at the end of treatment (16–18 months). No change was found in the 7 patients with initial M-Ab levels <75 U/ml. The reduction of M-Ab was more pronounced in the patients with good control of thyrotoxicosis than in those who were still hyperthyroid or were rendered hypothyroid during treatment. Twenty-three patients were followed after completion of the course of methimazole therapy, and 13 of them showed relapse of hyperthyroidism. A significant rise of M-Ab with respect to the values observed at the end of treatment occurred in all relapsing patients who had abnormally elevated M-Ab levels before therapy. With one exception, no M-Ab increase was found in the 10 nonrelapsing patients. However, no difference between relapsing and nonrelapsing patients was observed when the M-Ab changes occurring during treatment were considered. A similar trend during and after withdrawal of therapy was noted for Tg-Ab but, because of the relatively small percentage of positive subjects (25%), the results were less conclusive. The present data indicate that methimazole treatment induces a fall of thyroid antibodies in patients with Graves’ disease, and that relapse of hyperthyroidism is associated with an increase of these antibodies. However, the antibody changes occurring during treatment showed no prognostic value in predicting the outcome of therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1982


  • antithyroid drug therapy
  • autoimmunity
  • Graves’ disease
  • methimazole
  • Thyroid autoantibodies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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