Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders in patients with myasthenia gravis: Ten new aquaporin-4 antibody positive cases and a review of the literature

S. Jarius, F. Paul, D. Franciotta, J. De Seze, C. Münch, M. Salvetti, K. Ruprecht, M. Liebetrau, K. P. Wandinger, G. Akman-Demir, A. Melms, W. Kristoferitsch, B. Wildemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Neuromyelitis optica (NMO, Devic syndrome) and myasthenia gravis (MG) are rare antibody-mediated autoimmune disorders. Concurrent incidence has been reported in only few patients, mostly non-Caucasians. Objective: To report on ten Caucasian patients with NMO spectrum disorders (NMOSD) and MG and to provide a comprehensive review of the literature. Method: Retrospective study. Results: In total, 26 patients (m:f = 1:12; Caucasian in 12) with MG (generalized in 17) and NMOSD (NMO in 21, longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis in five) were identified from the authors' own files (n = 10) and the previous literature (n = 16). MG preceded NMOSD in 24/25 cases (96%). AQP4-Ab were tested in 20 patients and were positive in 17 (85%). Twenty out of 25 patients (80%) had been treated with thymectomy or thymic irradiation, which preceded NMOSD in all cases (median latency, 12 years; range, 0.3-32). At last follow-up, complete remission of MG was reported in 15/22 (68%), and MG was well controlled with pyridostigmine in three. Co-existing autoimmune disorders or autoimmune antibodies were reported in 17 patients. Conclusion: Our study demonstrates that i) AQP4-Ab-positive NMOSD are more commonly associated with MG in Caucasians than previously thought; ii) MG precedes NMOSD in most cases, often by more than a decade; iii) NMOSD almost exclusively occur in females with juvenile or early-onset MG; and iv) MG frequently takes an unusually mild course in patients with NMOSD. A history of thymectomy could be a possible risk factor for the later development of NMOSD. We recommend testing for AQP4-Ab in MG patients presenting with atypical motor or optic symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1135-1143
Number of pages9
JournalMultiple Sclerosis Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Acetylcholine receptor antibody (AchR-Ab)
  • aquaporin-4 antibody (AQP4-Ab)
  • longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis
  • myasthenia gravis
  • neuromyelitis optica (Devic disease)
  • NMO-IgG
  • optic neuritis
  • thymectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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