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September 13, 2021

Discerning the Role of Autoimmunity and Autoantibodies in Epilepsy: A Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, New York University, New York
  • 2Mater Advanced Epilepsy Unit, Brisbane, Australia
  • 3The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  • 4Department of Statistics, QIMR Berghofer Institute, Brisbane, Australia
  • 5Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • 6Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
JAMA Neurol. Published online September 13, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2021.3113

Importance  The literature on neural autoantibody positivity in epilepsy has expanded over the last decade, with an increased interest among clinicians in identifying potentially treatable causes of otherwise refractory seizures.

Observations  Prior studies have reported a wide range of neural autoantibody positivity rates among various epilepsy populations, with the highest frequency reported in individuals with focal epilepsy of unknown cause and new-onset seizures. The antibodies in some cases are of uncertain significance, and their presence can cause conundrums regarding therapy.

Conclusions and Relevance  There is likely some role for neural autoantibody assessment in patients with unexplained epilepsy who lack clear evidence of autoimmune encephalitis, but the clinical implications of such testing remain unclear owing to limitations in previous published studies. A framework for study design to bridge the current gaps in knowledge on autoimmune-associated epilepsy is proposed.

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