Objective: To determine whether there is an association between nonencephalitic herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) infection and anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis (anti-NMDARE).
Methods: Antibody testing was performed using samples from 2 cohorts in a case-control observational study. The cohort "Philadelphia" included 16 serum samples of pediatric anti-NMDARE cases and 42 age-matched controls with other neuroinflammatory disorders studied at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania. The cohort "Barcelona" contained 23 anti-NMDARE patient samples and 26 age-matched participants with other neuroinflammatory disorders studied at IDIBAPS-Hospital Clinic, University of Barcelona. The presence of HSV-1 IgG antibodies was examined by ELISA. As an additional control, IgG antibodies to cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus viral capsid antigen (EBV-VCA) were determined.
Results: In each cohort, more participants with anti-NMDARE than controls had anti-HSV-1 IgG antibodies. In the Philadelphia cohort (58 participants), 44% of anti-NMDARE cases had antibodies to HSV-1 compared with 14% controls (OR 4.67, 95% CI 1.3-17.3, p = 0.031). In the Barcelona cohort (49 participants), 52% of participants with anti-NMDARE had antibodies to HSV-1 compared with 31% of controls (OR 2.45, 95% CI 0.7-7.9, p = 0.155). Overall, 49% of anti-NMDARE cases have antibodies to HSV-1 in these 2 combined cohorts compared with 21% of controls (Mantel-Haenszel OR 3.21, 95% CI 1.3-7.7, p = 0.007).
Conclusion: Past HSV-1 infection was found in significantly more anti-NMDARE cases than controls. This suggests a meaningful association between nonencephalitic HSV-1 infection and development of anti-NMDARE.