Patterns of cerebrospinal fluid pathology correlate with disease progression in multiple sclerosis

Brain. 2001 Nov;124(Pt 11):2169-76. doi: 10.1093/brain/124.11.2169.


Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory and demyelinating disease of the CNS with, as yet, an unknown aetiology. Temporal profile, intensity and treatment responses are highly variable in multiple sclerosis suggesting pathogenetic heterogeneity. This hypothesis has been supported by histopathological studies disclosing at least four different subtypes of acute demyelinating lesions. Although stratification of multiple sclerosis patients into these categories would be extremely helpful for clinical studies, this approach is impractical as it requires brain biopsy. In this study we investigated CSF cytology from 60 multiple sclerosis patients by flow cytometry. We identified different patterns of CSF cytology, which were independent of immunological parameters in the peripheral blood. The most variable CSF parameter was the B cell to monocyte ratio, which remained stable during different phases of disease in selected patients. The ratio correlated with disease progression but not with disability or disease duration in a retrospective, consecutive analysis. A high ratio (predominance of B cells) was associated with more rapid disease progression, whereas a low ratio (predominance of monocytes) was found in patients with slower progression. Our study demonstrates the existence and potential clinical relevance of different CSF cytology patterns. We hypothesize that CSF cytology patterns may reflect the heterogeneity in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / pathology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / blood
  • Multiple Sclerosis / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Statistics, Nonparametric