Monitoring for Infection in MS Patients

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Infusion therapies. There are four infusion therapies available for MS treatment. Mitoxantrone, though not commonly used, is still available for relapsing and secondary progressive forms of MS. Common infections seen in clinical trials include upper respiratory, urinary tract, and sinus infections. A CBC, including platelets, should be obtained prior to each course of mitoxantrone and again if signs and symptoms of infection develop.10

Natalizumab is an integrin receptor antagonist administered in monthly IV infusions. Patients receiving natalizumab may have increased risk for urinary tract infections, lower respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, vaginitis, and herpes infections. These risks should be monitored at the clinician’s discretion. There have been several cases of PML associated with natalizumab; risk factors include duration of therapy, prior use of immunosuppressants, and presence of JCV antibodies.11

Alemtuzumab is a CD52-directed monoclonal antibody indicated in patients with relapsing forms of MS who have had an inadequate response to at least two DMTs. In clinical trials, subjects had a higher risk for nasopharyngitis, urinary tract infections, upper respiratory infections, sinusitis, herpetic infections, influenza, and bronchitis. Due to the increased risk for infection and secondary autoimmunities, patients are required to have monthly CBC testing, LFTs, and urinalysis for up to 48 months after their last infusion.12

Lastly, ocrelizumab is a CD20-directed cytolytic antibody for the treatment of relapsing and progressive forms of MS. In clinical trials, there was a higher incidence of upper and lower respiratory infections, skin infections, and herpes-related infections. Prior to initiating ocrelizumab, hepatitis B virus screening should be completed. There are no specific recommendations for routine monitoring during therapy, although providers should monitor patients clinically for any signs and symptoms of infection.13

A word of caution: The common signs and symptoms of infection are listed in the Table. If these symptoms are present in your patient, consider ordering diagnostic testing to evaluate for infection.

Symptoms of PML include progressive unilateral weakness, clumsiness of limbs, disturbance of vision, and changes in thinking, memory, and orientation leading to confusion and personality changes. At the first sign or symptom suggestive of PML, the DMT should be discontinued and diagnostic testing performed.

Providers may contact the manufacturer directly for further guidance on DMT surveillance and treatment protocols. —CK

Christen Kutz, PhD, PA-C
Colorado Springs Neurological Associates

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