Antibody-Negative Autoimmune Encephalitis: A Single-Center Retrospective Analysis

Mojžíšová, Hana; Krýsl, David; Hanzalová, Jitka; Dargvainiene, Justina; Wandinger, Klaus-Peter; Leypoldt, Frank; Elišák, Martin; Marusič, PetrNeurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation. November 2023. IF: 8,8. doi

MUDr. Hana Mojžíšová, Ph.D.

MUDr. Hana Mojžíšová, Ph. D., Department of Neurology, Second Faculty od Medicine and Motol University Hospital

Background and Objectives

Autoimmune encephalitis (AE) refers to a heterogenous group of inflammatory CNS diseases. Subgroups with specified neural autoantibodies are more homogeneous in presentation, trigger factors, outcome, and response to therapy. However, a considerable fraction of patients has AE features but does not harbor detectable autoantibodies and is referred to as antibody-negative AE. Our aim was to describe clinical features, trigger factors, treatments, and outcome of a cohort of comprehensively tested antibody-negative AE patients.


This retrospective monocentric study recruited adult patients whose serum and/or CSF was sent to our tertiary center for neural antibody testing between 2011 and 2020, who entered the diagnostic algorithm as possible antibody-negative AE and had the following: (1) probable antibody-negative AE, definite antibody-negative acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), or definite autoimmune limbic encephalitis (LE) according to diagnostic criteria; (2) available data on MRI of the brain, CSF, and EEG; and (3) stored serum and/or CSF samples. These samples were reanalyzed using a comprehensive combination of cell-based and tissue-based assays.


Of 2,250 patients tested, 33 (1.5%) were classified as possible antibody-negative AE. Of these, 5 were found to have antibodies by comprehensive testing, 5 fulfilled the criteria of probable AE (3F:2M, median age 67, range 42–67), 4 of definite autoimmune LE (2F:2M, median age 45.5, range 27–60 years), one of definite antibody-negative ADEM, 2 of Hashimoto encephalopathy, one had no samples available for additional testing, and 15 had no further categorization. Of 10 probable/definite AE/LE/ADEM, one had a malignancy and none of them received an alternative diagnosis until the end of follow-up (median 18 months). In total, 80% (8/10) of patients received immunotherapy including corticosteroids, and 6/10 (60%) patients received rituximab, azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, plasma exchange, or IV immunoglobulins. Five (50%) patients improved, one (10%) stabilized, one (10%) worsened, and 3 (30%) died. All deaths were considered to be related to encephalitis. We did not observe differences of immunotherapy-treated patients in likelihood of improvement with or without nonsteroidal immunotherapy (with 2/6, without 1/2).


Antibody-negative AE should be diagnosed only after comprehensive testing. Diagnostic effort is important because many patients benefit from immunotherapy and some have malignancies.

Created: 9. 4. 2024 / Modified: 9. 4. 2024 / PhDr. Mgr. Kateřina Křenová