The finding will help doctors correctly treat NMO -- also known as Devic's syndrome -- sooner and more effectively. In some countries, misdiagnosis may be as high as 30 percent. Early diagnosis is important because NMO is best treated differently than multiple sclerosis. Treatment requires immune suppressive medications in the first instance, rather than the immune modulatory treatments typically prescribed for MS. Therefore, a patient who has NMO, but is misdiagnosed with MS, may not receive optimal care at the earliest possible time.
NMO affects the optic nerves and spinal cord -- and within five years causes half of affected patients to lose vision in at least one eye. Many lose the ability to walk independently. The prognosis for loss of sight and permanent paralysis is much worse for patients who have NMO than for those who have MS. MS is not confined to optic nerve and spinal cord involvement. However, the symptoms of the two diseases overlap, and optic nerve and spinal cord involvement occur in both. NMO is particularly difficult to distinguish from MS in the early phases of the disease.
"Early diagnosis and treatment are of paramount importance to reduce the severity of the course of NMO," says Vanda A. Lennon, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic neuroimmunologist who led the international research team. In addition to colleagues at Mayo Clinic locations in Rochester, Minn., and Scottsdale, Ariz., the team is composed of scientists from Tohoku University School of Medicine in Sendai, Japan. "With this bioma