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We set out to investigate whether a de-novo paradigm could explain genetic causes of chronic ultra-refractory epilepsy, with onset later than the typical age for the epileptic encephalopathies. We performed exome sequencing on nine adult patients with MRI-negative epilepsy and no preceding intellectual disability. All had an onset of seizures after five years old and had chronic ultra-refractory epilepsy defined here as having failed more than six anti-epileptic drugs and currently experiencing ≥4 disabling seizures per month. Parents were sequenced to identify de-novo mutations and these were assessed for likelihood of pathogenicity based on the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) criteria. We confirmed the presence of functional and predicted-damaging de-novo mutations in 3/9 patients. One of these pathogenic de-novo mutations, in DNM1L, was previously reported in a patient with severe epilepsy and chronic pharmacoresistance adding to the evidence for DNM1L as an epilepsy gene. Exome sequencing is a successful strategy for identifying de-novo mutations in paediatric epileptic encephalopathies and rare neurological disorders. Our study demonstrates the potential benefit of considering ultra-refractory epilepsy patients with later onset for genetic testing. Identifying genetic mutations underpinning severe epilepsy of unknown aetiology may provide new insight into the underlying biology and offers the potential for therapeutic intervention in the form of precision medicine in older patients.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Med Genet

Publication Date





Epilepsy, Exome sequencing, Genetic, Pharmacoresistance