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The aim of this study was to assess neopterin, a marker of interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) induced macrophage activity, as a possible surrogate marker of inflammation in patients with multiple sclerosis. Urinary neopterin to creatinine ratios (UNCRs) were measured daily in 10 primary progressive (PP). 10 relapsing remitting (RR) and 11 secondary progressive (SP) patients with multiple sclerosis, and 14 normal control (NC) subjects, for periods of up to 12 weeks. After excluding measurements related to infection, the median of the individuals' average UNCRs was significantly higher in patients than in controls (P < 0.001 for all patients and P < 0.01 for each of the three groups of patients); the median UNCRs (and interquartile ranges) were 187 (135-231), 187 (165-277), 218 (164-517) and 134 (97-152) mumol/mol for PP, RR, SP patients and controls, respectively. Similarly, patients had a greater median proportion of days with a UNCR above normal (P < 0.001 for all patients and P < 0.01 for each group); the median percentage (and interquartile ranges) were 16 (6-62), 28 (21-36), 49 (14-86) and 0 (0-6)% for PP, RR, SP patients and controls, respectively. They also had a greater number of peaks in their serial UNCR measurements than controls (P < 0.001 for all patients and P < 0.01 for each group); the means +/- SD peaks/subject/month were: 2.1 +/- 1.8; 3.0 +/- 1.7; 3.3 +/- 2.3 and 0.2 +/- 0.6 for PP, RR, SP patients and controls, respectively. Nine relapses occurred in nine patients during the study, and all were associated with increased neopterin excretion, which tended to be greater than that on days not associated with a relapse. Three of the nine relapses were preceded by an upper respiratory tract infection. In eight out of 13 patients who had infections during the study, increased neopterin excretion was noted for periods of up to 6 weeks post-infection, significantly longer than that which occurred after infections in controls. This confirms infection as a potent inducer of symptomatic and asymptomatic disease activity in mutiple sclerosis, and provides further support of a pivotal role for IFN-gamma in te pathogenesis of mutiple sclerosis. Urinary neopterin excretion is increased in patients with both progressive and relapsing mutiple sclerosis, and therefore has potential as a surrogate marker of the inflammatory component of mutiple sclerosis disease activity.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date



120 ( Pt 1)


1 - 13


Adult, Biomarkers, Biopterin, Creatinine, Female, Humans, Infection, Inflammation, Interferon-gamma, Male, Middle Aged, Multiple Sclerosis, Neopterin, Recurrence