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Mult Scler. 2012 Oct;18(10):1480-3. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

Does interferon beta treatment exacerbate neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder?

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Department of Neurology, Research Institute and Hospital of National Cancer Center, 323 Ilsan street, Ilsandong-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do, Korea.



Recent case reports and series have shown that patients with neuromyelitis optica (NMO) experience clinical deterioration under interferon beta (IFN-β) treatment. The objective of the present study was to evaluate whether and to what extent IFN-β exacerbates NMO spectrum disorders (NMOSD).


We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 40 patients with NMOSD who had been treated with IFN-β for more than 6 months and whose disease duration was more than 1 year at the initiation of IFN-β treatment. We evaluated their annualized relapse rates (ARR) and Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) scores before and after IFN-β treatment.


In total, 95% of patients exhibited an ineffective or exacerbated response to IFN-β treatment and the mean ARR significantly increased after IFN-β treatment (p = 0.002). The increased ARR > 50% under IFN-β treatment was observed in 20 patients (50%). The mean EDSS score significantly increased following IFN-β treatment (p < 0.001).


In patients with NMOSD, IFN-β treatment is not only ineffective for preventing relapses but also may even increase relapses significantly. Thus, a more careful diagnostic approach to differentiate NMO from multiple sclerosis and attention to decision of treatment is warranted for patients at high risk of NMO.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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