Shining light on autoimmune encephalitis
About autoimmune encephalitis
AE is a serious and rare medical condition in which the immune system attacks the brain, significantly impairing function and causing the loss of the ability to perform basic actions such as walking, talking or eating. If diagnosed quickly and treated appropriately, many patients recover most or all functions within a few years. However, not all patients will fully recover, or even survive, if the condition is not diagnosed early. AE is mainly seen in female young adults, but is increasingly being seen more in males and females of all ages.
The condition is often difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can vary and include psychosis, tremors, multiple seizures, and uncontrollable bodily movements. Once diagnosed, AE is treated by steroids and neuro-immunology treatments such as plasmapheresis, the removal and exchange of infected plasma with healthy plasma.
The Neuro-Immunology Clinic at Children’s National treats infants, children, and adolescents with several neurologic autoimmune conditions including AE. The multidisciplinary team consists of neurologists, neuropsychologists, physical and rehabilitation medicine experts, and complex care physicians.
A look at the pediatric autoimmune encephalitis treatment consensus meeting
Children’s National, along with Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance and the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance, hosted the first International Pediatric Autoimmune Encephalitis Treatment Consensus Meeting at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, this month. Several leading children’s hospitals and health institutions including Duke University Medical Center, Texas Children’s Hospital, and Alberta Children’s Hospital also co-hosted the event with Children’s National.
“This meeting gathered experts from around the world to discuss our current efforts to standardize approaches to diagnosis, treatment, and research for pediatric autoimmune encephalitis with the common goal of discovering new ways to provide more effective care to children and adolescents with AE,” says Elizabeth Wells, MD, director of the Neuro-Immunology Clinic at Children’s National.
The following were the three main objectives of the meeting:
- Beginning the formation of treatment roadmaps for initial treatment and maintenance therapy for pediatric AE
- Discussing current work to standardize approaches to diagnosis, initial treatment, maintenance immunotherapy, disease surveillance, biomarker discovery, supportive care, and multidisciplinary coordination
- Aligning research priorities and planning future collaborative work
Three families who have children with AE also shared their stories of diagnosis and journeys to recovery, putting the need for more research into perspective for the experts in the room.
“We are very hopeful for the future of autoimmune encephalitis research and are proud to be at the forefront of it so we are able to provide the best possible care to our patients,” says Dr. Wells.