AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 3, 2018

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When the Body Attacks the Brain: Immune System Often to Blame for Encephalitis, Study Finds

Encephalitis caused by the immune system attacking the brain is similar in frequency to encephalitis from infections, Mayo Clinic researchers report. 

Encephalitis is a term used to describe brain inflammation. Its symptoms include fever, confusion, memory loss, psychosis and seizures. It progresses quickly over days to weeks and can be life-threatening. Traditionally, it has been thought that infections account for most cases of encephalitis, but this study shows autoimmune encephalitis is an equally common cause.

“The results of our study suggest that doctors evaluating patients with encephalitis should search for autoimmune causes in addition to infectious causes, given both have a similar frequency,” says Eoin Flanagan, M.B., B.Ch., senior author of the population-based study and an autoimmune neurology specialist at Mayo Clinic.

Feb. 22 is World Encephalitis Day — a day to raise awareness of the illness.

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