Immunotherapy in autoimmune encephalitis

Curr Opin Neurol. 2022 Jun 1;35(3):399-414. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000001048.


Purpose of review: Autoimmune encephalitis (AE) refers to immune-mediated neurological syndromes often characterised by the detection of pathogenic autoantibodies in serum and/or cerebrospinal fluid which target extracellular epitopes of neuroglial antigens. There is increasing evidence these autoantibodies directly modulate function of their antigens in vivo. Early treatment with immunotherapy improves outcomes. Yet, these patients commonly exhibit chronic disability. Importantly, optimal therapeutic strategies at onset and during escalation remain poorly understood. In this review of a rapidly emerging field, we evaluate recent studies on larger cohorts, registries, and meta-analyses to highlight existing evidence for contemporary therapeutic approaches in AE.

Recent findings: We highlight acute and long-term treatments used in specific AE syndromes, exemplify how understanding disease pathogenesis can inform precision therapy and outline challenges of defining disability outcomes in AE.

Summary: Early first-line immunotherapies, including corticosteroids and plasma exchange, improve outcomes, with emerging evidence showing second-line immunotherapies (especially rituximab) reduce relapse rates. Optimal timing of immunotherapy escalation remains unclear. Routine reporting of outcome measures which incorporate cognitive impairment, fatigue, pain, and mental health will permit more accurate quantification of residual disability and comprehensive comparisons between international multicentre cohorts, and enable future meta-analyses with the aim of developing evidence-based therapeutic guidelines.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies
  • Encephalitis* / diagnosis
  • Encephalitis* / etiology
  • Encephalitis* / therapy
  • Hashimoto Disease*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Immunotherapy
  • Syndrome


  • Autoantibodies
  • Immunologic Factors

Supplementary concepts

  • Hashimoto's encephalitis