Clinical features which predict neuronal surface autoantibodies in new-onset focal epilepsy: implications for immunotherapies
McGinty RN., Handel A., Moloney T., Ramesh A., Fower A., Torzillo E., Kramer H., Howell S., Waters P., Adcock J., Sen A., Lang B., Irani SR.
ObjectiveTo generate a score which clinically identifies surface-directed autoantibodies in adults with new-onset focal epilepsy, and evaluate the value of immunotherapy in this clinical setting.MethodsProspective clinical and autoantibody evaluations in a cohort of 219 consecutive patients with new-onset focal epilepsy.Results10.5% (23/219) of people with new-onset focal epilepsy had detectable serum autoantibodies to known or novel cell surface antigenic targets. 9/23 with autoantibodies were diagnosed with encephalitis, by contrast to 0/196 without autoantibodies (p<0.0001). Multivariate analysis identified six features which predicted autoantibody positivity (area under the curve=0.83): age ≥54 years, ictal piloerection, lowered self-reported mood, reduced attention, MRI limbic system changes and the absence of conventional epilepsy risk factors. 11/14 (79%) patients with detectable autoantibodies, but without encephalitis, showed excellent long-term outcomes (modified Rankin Score=0) despite no immunotherapy. These outcomes were superior to those of immunotherapy-treated patients with confirmed autoantibody-mediated encephalitis (p<0.05).ConclusionsSeizure semiology, cognitive and mood phenotypes, alongside inflammatory investigation findings, aid the identification of surface autoantibodies among unselected people with new-onset focal epilepsy. The excellent immunotherapy-independent outcomes of autoantibody-positive patients without encephalitis suggests immunotherapy administration should be guided by clinical features of encephalitis, rather than autoantibody positivity. Our findings suggest that, in this cohort, immunotherapy-responsive seizure syndromes with autoantibodies largely fall under the umbrella of autoimmune encephalitis.