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Understanding and Managing Acute Encephalitis


Understanding and Managing Acute Encephalitis

Rashmi Kumar. F1000Res.


Encephalitis is an important cause of morbidity, mortality, and permanent neurologic sequelae globally. Causes are diverse and include viral and non-viral infections of the brain as well as autoimmune processes. In the West, the autoimmune encephalitides are now more common than any single infectious cause, but, in Asia, infectious causes are still more common. In 2006, the World Health Organization coined the term "acute encephalitis syndrome", which simply means acute onset of fever with convulsions or altered consciousness or both. In 2013, the International Encephalitis Consortium set criteria for diagnosis of encephalitis on basis of clinical and laboratory features. The most important infectious cause in the West is herpes simplex virus, but globally Japanese encephalitis (JE) remains the single largest cause. Etiologic diagnosis is difficult because of the large number of agents that can cause encephalitis. Also, the responsible virus may be detectable only in the brain and is either absent or transiently found in blood or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Virological diagnosis is complex, expensive, and time-consuming. Different centres could make their own algorithms for investigation in accordance with the local etiologic scenarios. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography are specific for few agents. Clinically, severity may vary widely. A severe case may manifest with fever, convulsions, coma, neurologic deficits, and death. Autoimmune encephalitis (AIE) includes two major categories: (i) classic paraneoplastic limbic encephalitis (LE) with autoantibodies against intracellular neuronal antigens (Eg: Hu and Ma2) and (ii) new-type AIE with autoantibodies to neuronal surface or synaptic antigens (Eg: anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor). AIE has prominent psychiatric manifestations: psychosis, aggression, mutism, memory loss, euphoria, or fear. Seizures, cognitive decline, coma, and abnormal movements are common. Symptoms may fluctuate rapidly. Treatment is largely supportive. Specific treatment is available for herpesvirus group and non-viral infections. Various forms of immunotherapy are used for AIE.

Keywords: Acute encephalitis syndrome; Japanese encephalitis; autoimmune encephalitis.

Conflict of interest statement

No competing interests were disclosed.No competing interests were disclosed.No competing interests were disclosed.

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The author(s) declared that no grants were involved in supporting this work.

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