Background: Anti-TNF exposure has been linked to demyelination events. We sought to describe the clinical features of demyelination events following anti-TNF treatment and to test whether affected patients were genetically predisposed to multiple sclerosis [MS]. Methods: We conducted a case-control study to describe the clinical features of demyelination events following anti-TNF exposure. We compared genetic risk scores [GRS], calculated using carriage of 43 susceptibility loci for MS, in 48 cases with 1219 patients exposed to anti-TNF who did not develop demyelination. Results: Overall, 39 [74%] cases were female. The median age [range] of patients at time of demyelination was 41.5 years [20.7-63.2]. The median duration of anti-TNF treatment was 21.3 months [0.5-99.4] and 19 [36%] patients were receiving concomitant immunomodulators. Most patients had central demyelination affecting the brain, spinal cord, or both. Complete recovery was reported in 12 [23%] patients after a median time of 6.8 months [0.1-28.7]. After 33.0 months of follow-up, partial recovery was observed in 29 [55%] patients, relapsing and remitting episodes in nine [17%], progressive symptoms in three [6%]: two [4%] patients were diagnosed with MS. There was no significant difference between MS GRS scores in cases (mean -3.5 × 10-4, standard deviation [SD] 0.0039) and controls [mean -1.1 × 10-3, SD 0.0042] [p = 0.23]. Conclusions: Patients who experienced demyelination events following anti-TNF exposure were more likely female, less frequently treated with an immunomodulator, and had a similar genetic risk to anti-TNF exposed controls who did not experience demyelination events. Large prospective studies with pre-treatment neuroimaging are required to identify genetic susceptibility loci.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1653-1661
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Crohn's and Colitis
Issue number12
Early online date4 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • anti-TNF
  • Demyelination


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