CSF herpes virus and autoantibody profiles in the evaluation of encephalitis

Jenny J. Linnoila, Matthew J. Binnicker, Masoud Majed, Christopher J. Klein, Andrew McKeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Objective: To report the frequency of coexisting herpes viruses (herpes simplex virus 1 [HSV-1] or HSV-2, varicella zoster virus, Epstein-Barr virus [EBV], cytomegalovirus, or human herpes virus 6 [HHV-6]) and autoantibodies in patients with encephalitis (herpes or autoimmune) in clinical laboratory service. Methods: Three groups were evaluated for herpes viruses and antibodies: group 1—patients whose CSF was positive for a herpes virus by real-time PCR over a period of 6 months; group 2—patients whose CSF was positive for an autoimmune encephalitis–associated antibody over 5 years (e.g., NMDA receptor [NMDA-R] antibody), and the same number of controls without autoimmune/infectious disease; and group 3—incidental autoimmune parainfectious encephalitis cases encountered over 1 year. Results: In group 1, antibodies were detected in 27 of 100 herpes PCR-positive CSF specimens (CSFs), either unclassified neural or nonneural in all but one patient with NMDA-R antibody detected after EBV infection. Antibodies were also detected in 3 of 7 CSFs submitted for repeat PCR testing (unclassified, 2; AMPA receptor, 1). In group 2, herpes viruses were detected in 1 of 77 controls (HHV-6) and 4 of 77 patients with autoimmune encephalitis (EBV, 2; HHV-6, 2); autoantibodies targeted NMDA-R in 3/4 and GABAB-R in 1/4. In group 3, NMDA-R antibody was detected in 7 patients post–HSV-1 encephalitis. Of the remaining 3 patients, 2 had unclassified neural antibodies detected, and one had GABAB-R autoimmunity. Concomitant neoplasms were discovered in 2 patients each from groups 2 and 3. Conclusions: Autoantibodies and herpes virus DNA frequently coexist in encephalitic CSF. Some patients develop parainfectious autoimmunity following viral CNS infection (usually HSV-1 encephalitis). The significance of detecting herpes nucleic acids in others remains unclear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere245
JournalNeurology: Neuroimmunology and NeuroInflammation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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