Long-term immunologic effects of thymectomy in patients with myasthenia gravis

R. Gerli, R. Paganelli, A. Cossarizza, C. Muscat, G. Piccolo, D. Barbieri, S. Mariotti, D. Monti, O. Bistoni, E. Raiola, F. M. Venanzi, A. Bertotto, C. Franceschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Thymectomy (Tx) is a common therapeutic option to treat myasthenia gravis (MG), but its effects on the immune system are still obscure in humans. Objective: We sought to evaluate long-term immunologic effects of therapeutic Tx in patients with MG. Methods: T- and B-cell subsets and T-cell repertoire were analyzed in 35 patients with MG, 16 with previous Tx (at least 8 years before), 6 with recent (+ and CD8+ T cells. They displayed a normal number of total B and CD5+ B-circulating lymphocytes, but they also displayed a polyclonal increase in serum IgM and IgG associated with the presence of high levels of a variety of organ- and nonorgan-specific autoantibodies, including anti-dsDNA and anticardiolipin, without clinical evidence of autoimmune disease. These serologic abnormalities were not detectable in both non-Txd and recently Txd patients. After 3 years, 2 long- term Txd patients had systemic lupus erythematosus and an undifferentiated connective tissue disease. Conclusions: The association between MG and laboratory findings of systemic autoimmune disease may be in part related to Tx rather than to MG. Tx may represent a risk for the development of systemic autoimmune disorders over years in patients with MG.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)865-872
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number5 I
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Anti- DNA
  • Anticardiolipin
  • B cell
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • T cell
  • Thymectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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