From 1987 to 1991, 2500 sera were tested for presence of anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) by standard indirect immunofluorescence (IIF) and specific proteinase 3 (PR3) and myeloperoxydase (MPO) ELISA. Clinical and histological data leading to precise diagnosis were retrospectively obtained in 98 patients with ANCA positivity by IIF and then a comparative study based on ANCA specificity was performed. Vasculitis was present in all cases. Among patients with anti-PR3 (n = 38), 19 had Wegener's granulomatosis (WG), 15 microscopic polyarteritis (mPA), 2 idiopathic necrotizing and crescentic glomerulonephritis (NCGN) and 2 relapsing polychondritis (RP). Among patients with anti-MPO (n = 45), 26 had mPA, 3 classical polyarteritis nodosa (PAN), 5 WG, 8 NCGN, 2 systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and one Churg-Strauss syndrome (CSS). Negative MPO and PR3 specific ELISA despite positive IIF were observed in 15 patients (13 WG, 1 mPA, 1 PAN). In the PR3 group, males predominated (66%) and the mean age was 49 years (range 13-85); in the MPO group, females predominated (62%) and the mean age was 57 years (range 13-85). These differences were statistically significant (p < 0.05). Renal involvement was present in 92% of patients and renal biopsy showed pauci-immune necrotizing and crescentic glomerulonephritis in nearly all cases. PR3 specificity was associated with frequent eye involvement (32%) and presence of granulomas (45%), but was not associated with other autoantibodies. MPO specificity was associated with a higher prevalence of pulmonary hemorrhage (40%) and various autoimmune disorders, especially antinuclear antibodies. Cholestasis was observed in 50% of WG with negative MPO and PR3 ELISA. Renal and patient survival at the 75th percentile was 15 months with MPO-ANCA and 16 months with PR3, and was similar for patients with WG and mPA. Relapses occurred in 20% of patients with anti-MPO and 36% of patients with anti-PR3. Serological follow-up was obtained in 44 patients. With immunosuppressive treatment, ANCA disappeared in 66% of cases and this disappearance was always associated with absence of disease activity.
In conclusion: 1. This study confirms that the presence of ANCA is a good marker of vasculitis. 2. Despite some clinical differences, MPO and PR3-associated vasculitis have a similar prognosis. 3. The titer of ANCA determined by ELISA is not correlated with the severity of vasculitis but disappearance of ANCA is always associated with absence of disease activity.