A new study has shown that an antibody found in the blood of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may be present and detectable long before any symptoms of the disease become apparent.
The research was carried out by the Technical University in Munich, Germany. The study author, Dr Viola Biberacher said: “Finding the disease before symptoms appear means we can better prepare to treat and possibly even prevent those symptoms.“
For the study, 16 healthy blood donors who were later diagnosed with MS were compared to 16 healthy blood donors of the same age and sex who did not develop MS. Scientists looked for a specific antibody to KIR4.1., a protein found in some people with MS. Samples were collected between two and nine months before the first symptoms of MS appeared.
The researchers then looked at antibody levels in the blood at additional time points up to six years before and then after disease 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 pre-clinical MS several years before the first clinical attack. Concentrations of the antibody varied at different time points during pre-MS in individual people.
Dr Biberacher commented: “The next step is to confirm these findings in larger groups and determine how many years before onset of disease the antibody response develops.”
The results of the study will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology later this year.