More MS news articles for September 1999

Early treatment of MS prevents new symptoms

Sep 13, 1999
Reuters Health

Results of a new study add to mounting evidence that treating multiple sclerosis (MS) as soon as possible, before extensive neurological damage occurs, may help delay progression of the disease.

In MS, which strikes more women than men, the myelin sheath -- a material that serves to insulate certain nerves -- deteriorates in the eye, brain and spinal cord. Symptoms vary widely from person to person but may include tingling, dizziness, difficulty walking, tremors, and double vision. Symptoms of the disease may often diminish or disappear, only to return months or years later.

But when Dr. Alasdair J. Coles, of Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, England, and colleagues treated 29 MS patients with an anti-inflammatory drug called Campath-1H, they found that none of the patients displayed any new symptoms over an 18-month period. But, even though new symptoms were prevented in all participants, about half experienced a worsening of existing symptoms, the researchers report in the September issue of the Annals of Neurology.

Based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans obtained before treatment and throughout the study, the investigators conclude that symptoms were most likely to worsen in people with the most brain inflammation prior to receiving Campath-1H. Symptoms also worsened in people who already had extensive damage to regions of nerve cells called axons, Coles and colleagues report. Axons carry impulses away from the nerve cell.

"For anti-inflammatory drugs to be successful in treating MS, they need to be given early, before axonal death has been established," Coles told Reuters Health in an interview.

"Despite its profound effect on the immune system, Campath-1H had very little side effects except that one third of patients experienced Grave's disease, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland, that was easily controlled by drugs," Coles said.

Copyright © 1999 Reuters Limited.