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AIM: Central nervous system (CNS) autoantibodies have been reported in a range of neuroimmune diseases, but there has not been a systematic evaluation of autoantibodies in paediatric patients with brainstem encephalitis. METHOD: Serum samples from 57 children (40 male, 17 female, median age 12y, range 0.6-18y) with a diagnosis of brainstem encephalitis were tested retrospectively for antibodies to GQ1b, aquaporin-4 (AQP4), myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG), N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, LGI1, CASPR2, glycine receptor (GlyR), DPPX, and the voltage gated potassium channel (VGKC)-complex. RESULTS: Disease localized to the brainstem was seen in 19 patients: Bickerstaff's brainstem encephalitis (n=14) and clinically isolated syndrome (n=5). Polyfocal presentation was seen in 38 children, with predominantly white matter disease in 18 patients and grey matter in 20 patients. CNS surface antibodies were found in 22/57 patients (two patients with double positivity): GQIb (n=6), NMDAR (n=7), GlyR (n=5), MOG (n=5), and one AQP4. Three patients were positive for VGKC-complex antibodies. All patients were negative for antibodies to DPPX and the VGKC-complex antigens LGI1, CASPR2, and contactin-2. Although there were some partial differences in the presentations, the clinical features and outcomes did not relate clearly to the presence or absence of specific antibodies. INTERPRETATION: As determined retrospectively, 39% of patients had cell surface antibodies. The results did not suggest any relationship with treatment or outcomes obtained but it is possible that specific antibody detection could be a helpful guide to more intensive immunotherapies in some cases.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Med Child Neurol

Publication Date





836 - 841


Adolescent, Aquaporin 4, Autoantibodies, Brain Stem, Child, Child, Preschool, Encephalitis, Female, Gangliosides, Humans, Infant, Male, Myelin-Oligodendrocyte Glycoprotein, Neuroglia, Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated, Receptors, Glycine, Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate, Retrospective Studies