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Case Report ARTICLE

Front. Neurol., 26 June 2019 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2019.00666

Use of Cerebrospinal Fluid Biomarkers in Diagnosis and Monitoring of Rheumatoid Meningitis

  • 1Department of Neurology, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark
  • 2Department of Clinical Research, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
  • 3Department of Clinical Immunology, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark
  • 4Department of Pathology, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark
  • 5Department of Neurosurgery, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark
  • 6The Rheumatology Research Unit, Department of Rheumatology, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark

Rheumatoid meningitis is a rare extra-articular manifestation of rheumatoid arthritis, often with non-specific symptoms. In most cases brain MRI shows a patchy lepto- and pachymeningeal enhancement, but the diagnosis currently relies on examination of a meningeal biopsy with presence of plasma cells and rheumatoid noduli. Presence of IgM rheumatic factor (RF) has been found in several cases and recently four cases have shown high titer anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) in CSF, suggesting this as a potential marker for rheumatoid meningitis. We present a 62 year-old woman with sero-positive (IgM RF and anti-CCP) rheumatoid arthritis, presenting with headache and gait impairment. Brain MRI revealed the classical patchy meningeal enhancement and the diagnosis of rheumatoid meningitis was confirmed by neuropathological examination of a meningeal biopsy. Analysis of the CSF revealed positive IgM RF (92.7 IU/mL) and strongly positive anti-CCP (19,600 IU/mL) and CXCL-13 (>500 ng/L). After treatment with high-dose steroid and Rituximab the clinical symptoms resolved. A 6 month follow-up analysis of CSF showed a dramatic decrease in all these markers with negative IgM RF and a decrease in both anti-CCP (64 IU/mL) and CXCL-13 (<10 ng/L). Our case further underlines the potential use of CSF anti-CCP and IgM RF in the diagnosis of RM and the use of these markers and CXCL-13 in evaluation of treatment response. A case review of 48 cases of rheumatoid meningitis published since 2010, including, symptoms, serum, and CSF findings, treatment, and outcome is provided.

Background

Rheumatoid meningitis (RM) is a rare but potentially aggressive extra-articular manifestation of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) involving both pachy- and leptomeninges (1, 2). It can occur at all disease stages, and manifestations are often non-specific, mimicking a variety of neurological disorders, malignancies, or infections (16). Brain MRI with patchy leptomeningeal contrast enhancement and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) rheumatoid factor (RF) are useful to guide, but diagnosis still relies on pathological examination of a meningeal biopsy often showing unspecific inflammation, rheumatic noduli, and in some cases vasculitis (2, 711). Four recent cases have shown presence of CSF anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti- CCP) in patients with RM (1215). Here, we describe a patient with RM with strongly positive anti-CCP, IgM RF, and chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 13 (CXCL13) levels in CSF that normalized after treatment suggesting a potential use of these markers in both diagnosis and treatment management of RM. Furthermore, we review 48 cases of RM published in the English literature since 2010 focusing on symptoms, serum and CSF findings, treatment, and outcome.

Case Presentation

A 62 year-old woman was admitted after 4 months history of intermittent frontal headache, nausea, and gait and balance disturbances. She had a 3 year history of IgM-RF and anti-CCP positive RA, with a previously episode of pleuritis. Within the last year, she had been treated with Leflunomide, Infliximab, and was currently treated with Methotrexate and Salazopyrine entabs. Neurological examination was normal, except for a mild gait ataxia and her RA was well-controlled with no symptoms of active synovitis at time of admission.

Due to chronic headache a brain MRI was performed. This showed patchy interhemispheric pachy- and leptomenigeal enhancement adjacent to the parietal- and occipital lobes (Figure 1A). Blood tests revealed signs of inflammation with high levels of IgM RF (56 IU/mL), anti-CCP (>1,600 U/mL), Interleukin-2 receptor (ILR-2–1,065 kU/L) (Table 1), c-reactive protein (43 mg/L), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (106 mm). Remaining systemic antibody examinations were negative (anti-DNA antibody, anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) IgG, anti-neutropil cytoplasmatic antibody (ANCA) IgG, Anti-Ro (SSA)/La (SSB), anti-cardiolipin antibody, phospholipid antibody, and lupus anticoagulant). Immunoglobulin A, G, and M levels were normal.

FIGURE 1
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Figure 1. T1-weighted brain MRI showing interhemispheric leptomeningeal Gd+ enhancement before (A) and after (B) treatment with high dose steroids, Methotrexate and Rituximab. On gross inspection meninges appear severely inflamed (C) and pathological examination reveals massive meningeal granulomatous inflammation (D) with pre-dominant CD138 positive plasma cells (E), but also CD3 positive T cells (F). Massive infiltration with CD68 positive histiocytes with rheumatic granuloma formation was also seen (G).

TABLE 1
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Table 1. Serum and CSF markers before and after treatment.

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) analysis revealed a mononuclear pleocytosis (170 E6/L) and elevated protein level (1.16 g/L). Due to the pleocytosis, intravenous ceftriaxone, and aciclovir were administered, to cover for bacterial meningitis and Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) encephalitis. Subsequent CSF cultures revealed no growth of bacteria, no Borrelia antibodies, and viral/bacterial PCR (E. coli, hemophilus influenzae, Listeria monocytogenes, Neisseria meningitidis, hemolytic streptococcus, streptococcus pneumoniae, cytomegalovirus, enterovirus, herpes simplex virus, varicella zoster, Cryptococcus, and micromiome 16S/18S), and flowcytometry, and cytological analysis for malignancy were negative. Therefore, antiviral- and antibiotic- treatment was terminated.

The following days the patient displayed sporadic confusion, delusions, and fever (38.5°C). Subsequent tests, including HIV, syphilis, and tuberculosis were negative. Re-examination of CSF showed continuous mononuclear pleocytosis (130 E6/L), high IgG index (1.45) and presence of oligoclonal bands, suggestive of inflammation. Repeated cultures for bacteria were negative and cytological analysis showed an inflammatory pattern with an elevated number of B-lymphocytes (7.8 %) and plasma cells (1.8%, Table 1).

To investigate possible systemic inflammation or malignancy whole-body FDG-PET CT was performed. This showed hypermetabolism of the cerebral cortex, adjacent to the meningeal enhancement found on MRI, and a right medial lobe infiltrate of the lung. CT of thorax and abdomen confirmed an infiltrate, slight pleural effusion, and pleural thickening. Endobronchial ultrasound with biopsy was performed revealing no malignancy or infection.

On suspicion of RM, we performed analysis on undiluted CSF showing moderately positive IgM RF (92.7 IU/mL) and strongly positive anti-CCP (19,600 IU/mL) and CXCL-13 (>500 ng/L, Table 1).

Subsequent, biopsy of meninges (Figure 1C) confirmed chronic inflammation dominated by CD138 positive plasma cells and a limited number of CD3 positive T-lymphocytes with limited infiltration into the underlying gray matter (Figures 1E,F). Additionally, granulomatous inflammation with dense infiltration of CD68+ histiocytes and the presence of rheumatoid nodules were found (Figures 1D,G). Microbial stains, PCR, and cultures of biopsy tissue for fungi, parasites, acid-fast bacilli, HSV 1, HSV 2, CMV, SV40, M. tuberculosis, and toxoplasmosis were negative.

Based on the (i) MRI findings with patchy meningeal enhancement, (ii) high titer of IgM-RF and anti-CCP in CSF and (iii) histopathological chronic inflammation of meninges with plasma cells and rheumatic nodules, the diagnosis RM was established. Concurrently, the patient displayed extra articular manifestations of RA in her lungs.

Intravenous high dose methylprednisolone (750 + 1,000 + 1,000 mg on three consecutive days) followed by oral tapering was administered in addition to current treatment with methotrexate. Within days symptoms improved, but did not completely resolve. The following weeks, the patient received Rituximab (1,000 mg intravenous, repeated after 14 days). CSF levels of IgM RF, anti-CCP, and CXCL-13 decreased accordingly to the patient reporting significant treatment response (Table 1). A 6 month follow-up MRI showed regression of meningeal enhancement (Figure 1B) and follow-up FDG-PET CT showed almost complete regression of pulmonary findings. Neurological examination at 6 month follow up confirmed resolution of clinical symptoms.

Discussion

Meningitis in RA is a rare serious extra-articular complication (1, 2, 7, 16). Clinical neurological manifestations are often non-specific and duration and manifestations of RA is unreliable, as less than half of patients display active synovitis (2, 17). Sometimes CNS involvement even precedes the onset of arthritis (1720). In cases published since 2010, 34% (13 of 38) had no history of RA before the diagnosis of RM (Table A1). CSF findings are variable but most often include a mild pleocytosis with elevated protein concentration and normal glucose (Table A1). Gadolinium enhanced MRI is often useful, showing asymmetrical pachy- or leptomeningeal enhancement (11, 18). Recently, a review of 29 cases of RM showed definite asymmetric meningeal involvement in 62% of patients, and most common neurological features were hemiparesis or hemisensory symptoms mimicking stroke or epilepsy related to localization of meningeal involvement (11). In comparison to this, we find that 70% (33 of 47) had transient or permanent weakness, sensory deficits, or speech disorders, whereas 36% (17 of 47) had seizures (Table A1) It is not uncommon that patients display other extra-articular manifestations of RA such as subcutaneous nodules or pulmonary manifestations, as seen in our case (2, 5, 21, 22).

Patients with RA are often treated with various immunosuppressants which increase the risk of aseptic meningitis or opportunistic infections. Therefore, it is important to rule out iatrogenic aseptic, septic, and fungal diseases before diagnosis of RM. Concurrently, autoimmune diseases, malignancies, other granulomatous diseases or IgG4-related disease can display a similar pattern of dural thickening, making them possible considerations in the differential diagnosis of RM (10, 11, 16).

Until now, there are no known RM biomarkers in CSF and meningeal biopsy is required for definite diagnosis. Biopsy shows thickening of meninges (Figure 1C) and histopathological features include pachy- and leptomeningeal inflammation with plasma cells and the presence of rheumatoid noduli, and in some cases vasculitis (1, 2, 17). Patients diagnosed at autopsy almost all display meningeal rheumatoid noduli, while patients diagnosed with meningeal biopsy most often show non-specific inflammation (2, 7). In some previous cases correlation between strongly elevated CSF RF and Il-6 and RM has been proposed (12, 13, 23, 24), however this still needs validation as a diagnostic tool.

No clear guideline for treatment of RM exists and cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and azathioprine in combination with corticosteroids have all been described with improvement of symptoms (7, 17, 18, 25). In some cases, improvement on corticosteroid treatment alone has been described (5, 11, 12, 14, 20, 24, 2631). In our case review 41% (18 of 44) were treated with corticosteroids alone, 2% (1 of 44) received no treatment, whereas the remaining received corticosteroids in combination with another therapy (Table A1). Seven patients (16 %) received rituximab. On these regimens only 1 case worsened (32), 8 (18%) had an incomplete improvement, whereas 80% improved (Table A1).

To our knowledge, anti-CCP in CSF has only been examined in four cases of RM and found to be elevated in three of these (1215). Serum anti-CCP antibodies help distinguish RA from other types of arthritis, can help to identify patients with a higher risk of severe disease and are rarely found in other autoimmune conditions (33). They are often used in combination with IgM RF in the diagnosis of RA. In this case, anti-CCP level in CSF was strongly positive and a crucial element in both diagnosing RM and monitoring treatment response. With this case, we show a novel clear response of anti-CCP to the treatment of RM. Moreover, in addition to CSF anti-CCP and IgM RF, we also find the B cell chemoattractant CXCL-13 levels associated with treatment response, which to our knowledge has not previously been investigated.

We propose using anti-CCP, IgM RF, and CXCL-13 in CSF as potential biomarkers not only for diagnosis of RM, but also in evaluation of treatment response. Further studies are needed to clarify their potential use.

Data Availability

All datasets generated for this study are included in the manuscript and/or the Supplementary Files.

Ethics Statement

Clinical data in this case report was collected with the consent of the patient. A written informed consent was obtained from the patient for the publication of this case report.

Author Contributions

MN and AN: design and draft of the manuscript and interpretation of data. JF and JM: draft of manuscript. MW and CB: acquisition of data and draft of manuscript. K-EB and TE: revised manuscript for intellectual content. MB: draft of manuscript, acquisition of data, and revised manuscript for intellectual content.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Appendix

TABLE A1
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Table A1. Summary of RM cases from 2010 to present.

Keywords: rheumatoid meningitis, inflammation, anti-CCP, CXCL13, biomarker

Citation: Nissen MS, Nilsson AC, Forsberg J, Milthers J, Wirenfeldt M, Bonde C, Byg K-E, Ellingsen T and Blaabjerg M (2019) Use of Cerebrospinal Fluid Biomarkers in Diagnosis and Monitoring of Rheumatoid Meningitis. Front. Neurol. 10:666. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00666

Received: 28 March 2019; Accepted: 06 June 2019;
Published: 26 June 2019.

Edited by:

Thomas Skripuletz, Hannover Medical School, Germany

Reviewed by:

Elena Bartoloni, University of Perugia, Italy
Geoffrey M. Thiele, University of Nebraska Medical Center, United States

Copyright © 2019 Nissen, Nilsson, Forsberg, Milthers, Wirenfeldt, Bonde, Byg, Ellingsen and Blaabjerg. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Mette Scheller Nissen, mette.scheller.nissen2@rsyd.dk