D-Penicillamine-Induced Myasthenia Gravis-A Probable Complication of Wilson's Disease Treatment-A Case Report and Systematic Review of the Literature

Life (Basel). 2023 Aug 10;13(8):1715. doi: 10.3390/life13081715.


Wilson's disease (WD) is a genetic disorder with copper accumulation in various tissues leading to related clinical symptoms (mainly hepatic and neuropsychiatric) which can be in 85% of patients successfully treated with anti-copper agents. However, during WD treatment neurological deterioration may occur in several patients. D-penicillamine (DPA) is one of the most frequently used drugs in WD treatment. Despite its efficacy, DPA can produce many adverse drug reactions, which should be recognized early. We present the case of a 51-year-old man diagnosed with the hepatic form of WD and initially treated with DPA in whom after 15 months of treatment, diplopia and evening ptosis occurred. WD treatment non-compliance as well as overtreatment were excluded. Supported by neurological symptoms, a positive edrophonium test, and high serum levels of antibodies against acetylcholine receptors (AChR-Abs), as well as low concentrations of antibodies against muscle-specific kinase (MuSK-Abs), the diagnosis of myasthenia gravis (MG), induced by DPA, was established. DPA was stopped; zinc sulfate for WD and pyridostigmine for MG symptoms were introduced. Diplopia and ptosis subsided after a few days, which supported our diagnosis. During a follow-up visit after 6 months, the patient did not present any MG symptoms. AChR-Abs level gradually decreased and MuSK-Abs were no longer detected. Pyridostigmine was stopped, and within 9 months of follow-up, the neurological symptoms of MG did not reoccur. The authors discussed the patient's neurological deterioration, performed a systematic review of DPA-induced MG in WD and concluded that MG is a rare and usually reversible complication of DPA treatment. DPA-induced MG generally occurs 2-12 months after treatment initiation and ocular symptoms predominate. Response to pyridostigmine treatment is good and MG symptoms usually reverse within one year after DPA treatment cessation. However, symptoms may persist in some cases where DPA treatment is only a trigger factor for MG occurrence.

Keywords: Wilson’s disease; antibodies against acetylcholine receptors; d-penicillamine; myasthenia gravis; pyridostigmine.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding. The APC was supported financially as part of the funding for statutory research in the Second Department of Neurology at the Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, Warsaw, Poland.