Intravenous immunoglobulin for the treatment of autoimmune encephalopathy in children with autism

Transl Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 10;8(1):148. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0214-7.


The identification of brain-targeted autoantibodies in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) raises the possibility of autoimmune encephalopathy (AIE). Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is effective for AIE and for some children with ASD. Here, we present the largest case series of children with ASD treated with IVIG. Through an ASD clinic, we screened 82 children for AIE, 80 of them with ASD. IVIG was recommended for 49 (60%) with 31 (38%) receiving the treatment under our care team. The majority of parents (90%) reported some improvement with 71% reporting improvements in two or more symptoms. In a subset of patients, Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) and/or Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) were completed before and during IVIG treatment. Statistically significant improvement occurred in the SRS and ABC. The antidopamine D2L receptor antibody, the anti-tubulin antibody and the ratio of the antidopamine D2L to D1 receptor antibodies were related to changes in the ABC. The Cunningham Panel predicted SRS, ABC, parent-based treatment responses with good accuracy. Adverse effects were common (62%) but mostly limited to the infusion period. Only two (6%) patients discontinued IVIG because of adverse effects. Overall, our open-label case series provides support for the possibility that some children with ASD may benefit from IVIG. Given that adverse effects are not uncommon, IVIG treatment needs to be considered cautiously. We identified immune biomarkers in select IVIG responders but larger cohorts are needed to study immune biomarkers in more detail. Our small open-label exploratory trial provides evidence supporting a neuroimmune subgroup in patients with ASD.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intravenous
  • Adolescent
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Arkansas
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / complications*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Encephalitis / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Hashimoto Disease / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / drug effects*


  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1

Supplementary concepts

  • Hashimoto's encephalitis