Autoimmune limbic encephalopathy and anti-Hu antibodies in children without cancer

Neurology. 2013 Jun 11;80(24):2226-32. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318296e9c3. Epub 2013 May 8.


Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the clinical presentation of children and adolescents with anti-Hu antibodies (Hu-Abs).

Methods: This was a retrospective study of children and adolescents with Hu-Abs collected by the French Paraneoplastic Neurological Syndrome (PNS) Reference Center between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2011.

Results: The center identified 251 patients with Hu-Abs. Only 8 patients were younger than 18 years. All of the 243 adult patients had PNS. In contrast, of the 8 children, only 2 (25%, Fisher exact test p = 0.0003) had neuroblastoma and opsoclonus-myoclonus. The other 6 children (5 female and 1 male) presented with limbic encephalitis (progressive personality changes, memory loss, and seizure) and were free of cancer (mean follow-up time: 50 months; range: 34-72 months). Brain MRI scans were abnormal in 4 of the 6 patients, with left, right, or bitemporal T2/fluid-attenuated inversion recovery hyperintensity. Protein levels and cell counts in the CSF were normal in all patients, but numerous oligoclonal bands were observed in 4 patients. All 6 patients received antiepileptic drugs and immunotherapy, but management of epilepsy was difficult in all of them. Five of the children developed cognitive impairments.

Conclusion: In children, as in adults, Hu-Abs can be a marker of PNS. However, in contrast to adults, Hu-Abs in children are also associated with an aggressive form of autoimmune nonparaneoplastic limbic encephalitis. Future studies should be conducted to determine the incidence of this syndrome and whether earlier diagnosis and T-cell-directed immunotherapies may improve its prognosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / biosynthesis*
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood
  • Autoimmune Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / epidemiology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Child
  • ELAV Proteins / immunology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Limbic Encephalitis / diagnosis*
  • Limbic Encephalitis / epidemiology
  • Limbic Encephalitis / immunology*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Biomarkers
  • ELAV Proteins

Supplementary concepts

  • Autoimmune limbic encephalitis