JC virus viremia in interferon-beta -treated and untreated Italian multiple sclerosis patients and healthy controls

J Neurovirol. 2007;13(1):73-7. doi: 10.1080/13550280601094563.


Following the development of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) in two multiple sclerosis (MS) patients treated with natalizumab and interferon-beta (IFNbeta), a possible correlation between JC virus (JCV), the etiological agent of PML, and MS has received heightened interest. In particular, attention has focused on assessing whether IFNbeta treatment could affect the replication of JCV and thus its frequency in the peripheral blood of MS patients and whether the presence of JCV DNA in peripheral blood could be a predictive marker of the risk of developing PML. In order to answer to these questions, peripheral blood samples were collected from 59 INFbeta-treated, 39 untreated relapsing-remitting MS patients, and 98 healthy controls (HCs) and JCV DNA levels were determined and quantified by means of a real-time polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR) assay. Overall, no differences were found in the presence or viral load of JCV DNA of MS patients and the HCs, but JCV DNA was significantly less frequent in the peripheral blood of IFNbeta-treated patients (13.6%) compared to the untreated MS patients (46.1%) and the healthy controls (28.6%). These results suggest that the presence of JCV in the blood of MS patients cannot be considered as a marker or a risk factor for PML development. In addition, they indicate that treatment with INFbeta can lead to the reduction of presence of the JCV genome in the peripheral blood of MS patients and, thus, that this drug probably does not increase the risk of PML in MS patients treated with IFNbeta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Control Groups
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Humans
  • Interferon-beta / therapeutic use
  • JC Virus / genetics
  • JC Virus / isolation & purification
  • JC Virus / physiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / blood
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / drug therapy
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / virology*
  • Viral Load
  • Viremia*
  • Virus Replication / drug effects*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • DNA, Viral
  • Interferon-beta