Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy

J Neuroimmunol. 2011 Feb;231(1-2):73-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2010.09.021.


Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a disease of the central nervous system (CNS) with destructive infection of oligodendrocytes by JC virus. PML belongs to the opportunistic infections. It is observed in patients with HIV infection, lymphoid malignancies, after organ- and stem cell transplantations and more recently in the context of modern immune-therapies with monoclonal antibodies (mAb) like natalizumab, rituximab, infliximab and efalizumab. The natural course of PML is fatal within months. More recently, the Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome (IRIS) has been observed in patients with HIV infection treated with combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) as well as patients in whom the PML-inducing immune therapy has been terminated. In PML-IRIS the immune system contributes to the elimination of JC virus from the CNS and if PML-IRIS emerges, PML can be survived but can lead as well to catastrophic outcomes with brain herniation and death. Therefore the management of IRIS requires special knowledge in JC virus biology and patient care. JC virus infection is possibly involved in a variety of additional neurological conditions and cancer. Much will be learned within the next years that could change our view on the understanding of JC virus and human disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Humans
  • JC Virus / immunology*
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / immunology*
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / therapy*
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / virology
  • Natalizumab


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Natalizumab