Teen with Autoimmune Encephalitis Recovers Through Immunotherapy

February 05, 2024

Researchers Highlight the Importance of Distinguishing Between Autoimmune Encephalitis and ASD

A recent letter to the editor published in the Journal of Clinical Neurology discusses the similarities between autoimmune encephalitis and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in pediatric cases, emphasizing the importance of an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. The authors presented a case of a 15-year-old female exhibiting symptoms resembling autism, including impaired social skills and communication difficulties. The treating physicians ultimately diagnosed her with autoimmune encephalitis, not ASD. Despite having negative autoantibody tests, the patient responded positively to immunotherapy (i.e., IVIG) and miraculously experienced a complete recovery from her condition through this treatment. The researchers believe this case underscores the challenge of distinguishing between autism and autoimmune encephalitis, especially in cases where symptoms overlap, and highlights the potential role of immune system dysfunction in the etiology of ASD. Additionally, the authors point out that their patient’s response to immunotherapy suggests that her symptoms were mediated by inflammation or neural system activation. Subsequently, the team calls for further research into the relationship between autoimmune encephalitis and autism.

Original Letter to the Editor

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