A Rare Transition from Pemphigus Vulgaris to Pemphigus Foliaceus Following Rituximab Therapy Confirmed by Antidesmoglein ELISA 

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Samuel P Haslam
Katelyn F Woolridge
Michael G Wilkerson


pemphigus, pemphigus vulgaris, pemphigus foliaceus, rituximab, transition



The phenotypic expression of pemphigus subtypes is mediated by differences in desmoglein (DSG) autoantibody profiles, a concept that is demonstrated in rare cases of transition between pemphigus subtypes. Diagnosis of transition is made on the basis of changes in classic phenotypic expression in conjugation with changes in immunofluorescence and/or antidesmoglein ELISA.

Case Description:

We report a 54-year-old male with a history of severe mucocutaenous pemphigus vulgaris (PV) brought into remission by treatment with systemic steroids and adjuvant rituximab infusions who re-presented approximately 1 year following steroid discontinuation with new crusted erosions covering the upper trunk and proximal extremities and notable absence of mucosal involvement. Antidesmoglein ELISA profile revealed an isolated rise in DSG-1 antibodies. Previous antidesmoglein ELISA profiles showed dual elevation in both DSG-1 and DSG-3 antibodies during active PV and absence of both DSG-1 and DSG-3 during disease remission.


The current case describes a rare transition from PV to pemphigus foliaceus (PF) following rituximab therapy as suspected clinically by classic phenotypic expression and confirmed serologically by antidesmoglein ELISA. This is only the second reported case of pemphigus transition following rituximab adjuvant therapy, and there are less than thirty cases of PV to PF transition reported in the literature. There is currently not a satisfactory explanation for the autoantibody shifting that is observed in transition between pemphigus types. 


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