Background: In 2007, the California Encephalitis Project (CEP), which was established to study the epidemiology of encephalitis, began identifying cases of anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (anti-NMDAR) encephalitis. Increasing numbers of anti-NMDAR encephalitis cases have been identified at the CEP, and this form rivals commonly known viral etiologies as a causal agent. We report here the relative frequency and differences among encephalitides caused by anti-NMDAR and viral etiologies within the CEP experience.
Methods: Demographic, frequency, and clinical data from patients with anti-NMDAR encephalitis are compared with those with viral encephalitic agents: enterovirus, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), and West Nile virus (WNV). All examined cases presented to the CEP between September 2007 and February 2011 and are limited to individuals aged ≤30 years because of the predominance of anti-NMDAR encephalitis in this group. The diagnostic costs incurred in a single case are also included.
Results: Anti-NMDAR encephalitis was identified >4 times as frequently as HSV-1, WNV, or VZV and was the leading entity identified in our cohort. We found that 65% of anti-NMDAR encephalitis occurred in patients aged ≤18 years. This disorder demonstrated a predilection, which was not observed with viral etiologies, for females (P < .01). Seizures, language dysfunction, psychosis, and electroencephalographic abnormalities were significantly more frequent in patients with anti-NMDAR encephalitis (P < .05), and autonomic instability occurred exclusively in this group.
Discussion: Anti-NMDAR encephalitis rivals viral etiologies as a cause of encephalitis within the CEP cohort. This entity deserves a prominent place on the encephalitic differential diagnosis to avoid unnecessary diagnostic and treatment costs, and to permit a more timely treatment.
"These results support my anecdotal experience with patients admitted to the Royal London Hospital in the last 5 years and is also supported by the findings of the recent surveillance study in England (see below)."
Granerod et al. Causes of encephalitis and differences in their clinical presentations in England: a multicentre, population-based prospective study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2010 Dec;10(12):835-44.