New insight into autoimmune epilepsy

In the last decade an increasing number of Australian patients have been diagnosed with autoimmune associated epilepsy - a potentially treatable form of the neurological disease that is caused by a change in the body’s immune function.

The main feature of autoimmune epilepsy is refractory seizures, and many patients appear to respond well to some immunotherapy treatments, but there are currently no clear guidelines on which patients should be tested for this epilepsy sub-type.

Mater Researcher Dr Lisa Gillinder has authored a newly published paper that provides new insights into how patients with autoimmune epilepsy are identified and potentially treated.

“We reviewed all the prior literature in the field of autoimmune associated epilepsy in a bid to provide clarity around which epilepsy patients are most likely to be affected by autoimmunity and therefore might benefit from immune based treatments,” Dr Gillinder said. 

“Studies into this epilepsy sub-type have reported varying numbers of cases, but there is emerging evidence that the condition may be more common among patients attending epilepsy clinics than previously thought.”

Dr Gillinder said the literature review suggests that autoimmune testing could be a valuable tool for the early diagnosis of this type of epilepsy.

“Our review surmises that autoimmune testing has an important role in this disease, because early diagnosis can affect treatment options and better management of seizures,” she said. 

“Our team also identified large gaps in the current knowledge of the condition and we outline a new framework to help focus further research that will improve the understanding of autoimmune seizures. This will help ensure that patients are diagnosed correctly and have access to the best available treatments for their epilepsy.”

The review was conducted in collaboration with Dr Claude Steriade and Prof Jacqueline French from New York University and Prof Jeffrey Britton from the Mayo Clinic.

The paper has recently been published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

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