Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy in patients treated with fumaric acid esters: a review of 19 cases

Robbert Jan Gieselbach, Annemarie H. Muller-Hansma, Martijn T. Wijburg, Marjolein S. de Bruin-Weller, Bob W. van Oosten, Dennis J. Nieuwkamp, Frank E. Coenjaerts, Mike P. Wattjes, Jean Luc Murk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a rare and potentially fatal condition caused by a brain infection with JC polyomavirus (JCV). PML develops almost exclusively in immunocompromised patients and has recently been associated with use of fumaric acid esters (FAEs), or fumarates. We reviewed the literature and the Dutch and European pharmacovigilance databases in order to identify all available FAE-associated PML cases and distinguish possible common features among these patients. A total of 19 PML cases associated with FAE use were identified. Five cases were associated with FAE use for multiple sclerosis and 14 for psoriasis. Ten patients were male and nine were female. The median age at PML diagnosis was 59 years. The median duration of FAE therapy to PML symptom onset or appearance of first PML lesion on brain imaging was 31 months (range 6–110). In all cases a certain degree of lymphocytopenia was reported. The median duration of lymphocytopenia to PML symptom onset was 23 months (range 6–72). The median lymphocyte count at PML diagnosis was 414 cells/µL. CD4 and CD8 counts were reported in ten cases, with median cell count of 137 and 39 cells/µL, respectively. Three patients died (16% mortality). The association between occurrence of PML in patients with low CD4 and CD8 counts is reminiscent of PML cases in the HIV population and suggests that loss of T cells is the most important risk factor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1155-1164
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

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