Similar Incidence of Autoimmune and Infectious Brain Inflammatory Disease Encephalitis Interview with:

Eoin Flanagan, M.B., B.Ch. Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minnesota

Dr. Flanagan

Eoin Flanagan, M.B., B.Ch.
Mayo Clinic
Rochester, Minnesota What is the background for this study?


Response: Traditionally it has been thought that infections (e.g., viruses)  account for the majority of encephalitis cases. Recent discoveries of neural autoantibody markers of encephalitis (e.g., NMDA receptor autoantibodies) have led to an appreciation that encephalitis cases can be caused by the body’s own immune system attacking the brain, what we term autoimmune encephalitis. What are the main findings?

Response: We found that that approximately 14 per 100,000 people alive and living in our county have had autoimmune encephalitis in their lifetime. In addition, we found that the frequency of autoimmune encephalitis and infectious encephalitis was similar. What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: It is important doctors are aware of this so that autoimmune encephalitis is recognized quickly and patients can be placed on the appropriate immune lowering medications. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future studies need to evaluate the frequency of autoimmune encephalitis in other populations. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This study allows us to estimate that approximately 1 million people worldwide had autoimmune encephalitis in their lifetime. We also estimate that, currently, about 90,000 people around the world develop autoimmune encephalitis each year. 


Divyanshu Dubey, Sean J. Pittock, Cecilia R. Kelly, Andrew McKeon, Alfonso Sebastian Lopez-Chiriboga, Vanda A. Lennon, Avi Gadoth, Carin Y. Smith, Sandra C. Bryant, Christopher J. Klein, Allen J. Aksamit, Michel Toledano, Bradley F. Boeve, Jan-Mendelt Tillema, Eoin P. Flanagan. Autoimmune encephalitis epidemiology and a comparison to infectious encephalitis. Annals of Neurology, 2018; 83 (1): 166 DOI: 10.1002/ana.25131

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