Autoimmune events during interferon beta-1b treatment for multiple sclerosis

J Neurol Sci. 1999 Jan 1;162(1):74-83. doi: 10.1016/s0022-510x(98)00299-8.


Autoimmune events, although rarely reported during interferon beta-1b (IFNB) treatment of relapsing-remitting (RR) multiple sclerosis (MS), may be more frequent than expected due to the many immunologic abnormalities associated with this disease. We report the prospective two-year follow-up of autoimmune events in 40 RR MS patients treated with IFNB and in 21 untreated MS controls. Thyroid and liver function and serum level of 12 autoantibodies (autoAbs) against organ- (thyroid, gastric, pancreatic) and non-organ-specific antigens were serially monitored. In contrast to control patients, autoAbs (anti-nuclear, -smooth muscle or -thyroid antigens) were detected in 13 IFNB-treated patients, and these were associated with thyroid or liver function alteration in many cases. Persistent autoimmune thyroid dysfunction occurred in three IFNB-treated patients, all of whom were women with a familial history of thyroid disease or baseline anti-thyroid autoAb positivity. For improvement of the MS relapse rate, thyroid dysfunction was adequately treated without stopping IFNB. Liver function alteration (17 IFNB-treated patients, associated with non-organ-specific autoAbs in four) was transient and did not require IFNB treatment to be stopped, with the exception of one patient who was already suffering from a drug-induced hepatopathy at baseline. During the IFNB treatment of MS, several autoimmune events may occur, indicating that thyroid and liver function and autoAbs must be carefully monitored.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoantibodies / analysis
  • Autoimmune Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Interferon beta-1a
  • Interferon beta-1b
  • Interferon-beta / adverse effects*
  • Interferon-beta / therapeutic use
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radioligand Assay
  • Recombinant Proteins / adverse effects
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Recurrence
  • Thyroid Function Tests
  • Time Factors


  • Autoantibodies
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Interferon beta-1b
  • Interferon-beta
  • Interferon beta-1a