A 62 year old Irish woman with an eight year history of probable coeliac disease developed brain stem signs, unilateral facial numbness and weakness, wasting and anaesthesia in both lower limbs. Over the next two years, a progressive deterioration in neurological function and in intestinal absorption, and the development of anaemia led to a suspicion of malignancy. Bone marrow biopsy revealed malignant histiocytosis. Treatment with cytotoxic drugs led to a transient, marked improvement in intestinal structure and function, and in power of the lower limbs. Relapse was associated with bone marrow failure, resulting in overwhelming infection. Post mortem examination confirmed the presence of an unusual demyelinating encephalomyelopathy affecting the brain stem and the posterior columns of the spinal cord.
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