Clinical Features and Inflammatory Markers in Autoimmune Encephalitis Associated With Antibodies Against Neuronal Surface in Brazilian Patients

Front Neurol. 2019 May 14;10:472. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00472. eCollection 2019.


Acute encephalitis is a debilitating neurological disorder associated with brain inflammation and rapidly progressive encephalopathy. Autoimmune encephalitis (AE) is increasingly recognized as one of the most frequent causes of encephalitis, however signs of inflammation are not always present at the onset which may delay the diagnosis. We retrospectively assessed patients with AE associated with antibodies against neuronal surface diagnosed in reference centers in Northeast of Brazil between 2014 to 2017. CNS inflammatory markers were defined as altered CSF (pleocytosis >5 cells/mm3) and/or any brain parenchymal MRI signal abnormality. Thirteen patients were evaluated, anti-NMDAR was the most common antibody found (10/13, 77%), followed by anti-LGI1 (2/13, 15%), and anti-AMPAR (1/13, 7%). Median time to diagnosis was 4 months (range 2-9 months). Among these 13 patients, 6 (46.1%) had inflammatory markers and when compared to those who did not present signs of inflammation, there were no significant differences regarding the age of onset, time to diagnosis and modified Rankin scale score at the last visit. Most of the patients presented partial or complete response to immunotherapy during follow-up. Our findings suggest that the presence of inflammatory markers may not correlate with clinical presentation or prognosis in patients with AE associated with antibodies against neuronal surface. Neurologists should be aware to recognize clinical features of AE and promptly request antibody testing even without evidence of inflammation in CSF or MRI studies.

Keywords: AMPAR; Inflammatory biomarkers; LGI1; NMDAR; autoimmune encephalitis; low-income population; neuronal surface antibody.