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Open access

Anette Boe Wolff, Lars Breivik, Karl Ove Hufthammer, Marianne Aardal Grytaas, Eirik Bratland, Eystein Sverre Husebye, and Bergithe Eikeland Oftedal

Background

The most common cause of primary adrenal failure (Addison’s disease) in the Western world is autoimmunity characterized by autoantibodies against the steroidogenic enzyme 21-hydroxylase (CYP21A2, 21OH). Detection of 21OH-autoantibodies is currently used for aetiological diagnosis, but how levels of 21OH-autoantibodies vary over time is not known.

Setting

Samples from the national Norwegian Addison’s Registry and Biobank established in 1996 (n = 711). Multi-parameter modelling of the course of 21OH-autoantibody indices over time.

Results

21OH-autoantibody positivity is remarkably stable, and >90% of the patients are still positive 30 years after diagnosis. Even though the antibody levels decline with disease duration, it is only rarely that this downturn reaches negativity. 21OH-autoantibody indices are affected by age at diagnosis, sex, type of Addison’s disease (isolated vs autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type I or II) and HLA genotype.

Conclusion

21OH-autoantibodies are reliable and robust markers for autoimmune Addison’s disease, linked to HLA risk genotype. However, a negative test in patients with long disease duration does not exclude autoimmune aetiology.