Introduction by Dr Ava Easton, Chief Executive of the Encephalitis Society

Research Summary-Advances in Encephalitis 2020 

The Research Summary - Advances in Encephalitis 2020 presents a collection of research papers published during that same year.

Encephalitis in children, both infectious and autoimmune, was the topic of many research studies in 2020. These studies revealed that there is still a high percentage of cases without an established cause from 53% in Brazil to 31% in Sweden. There was a variation on the type of infectious agents causing encephalitis according to geographical location, the most common viruses being tick-borne encephalitis virus (Sweden), West Nile virus (USA), enterovirus (Brazil), herpes simplex virus (the Netherlands).

There are many challenges in establishing the exact cause of encephalitis and initial features do not show sufficient clues towards an etiological diagnosis. It is essential to follow current guidance especially it has been reported that only two-thirds of patients suspected of encephalitis in a study in the USA were given empirical acyclovir.

Autoimmune encephalitis rates are increasing which proves that more cases are diagnosed, but there is still more to do to improve and speed up the diagnosis. Clinicians are urged to have a better understanding of the antibody tests required for diagnosis and when to ask for them in order to avoid false positive results or being misled. Provisional paediatric autoimmune encephalitis classification criteria and an algorithm to facilitate early diagnosis have been developed (page 16).

Studies also looked at the consequences left by encephalitis. Sequelae were reported in more than a third of patients after tick-borne encephalitis, in nearly two thirds of patients after antiNMDAR encephalitis andJapanese encephalitis. Studies on sleep disorders in autoimmune encephalitis showed that these persist after the initial illness and impact hugely on patient’s quality of life. Adequate discharge planning and information regarding the illness, consequences and future care for patients and their family/carers are essential to improve the overall outcomes. Disclaimer This review provides a succinct summary of the original papers. References to the full papers are included in order to acknowledge the source, and for those who would like to read the articles, papers and books in full. The information presented in this summary should not be relied on to suggest an appropriate course of treatment for a particular individual. We strongly recommend that you refer to the author’s original paper before altering practice in any way.

The year 2020 was taken over by the COVID-19 pandemic and many studies (single case reports and cohort studies) emerged, looking at neurological manifestations, including encephalitis, associated with COVID-19. However, there is still much to do to understand the various manifestations reported around neurology and COVID-19, especially the connection between the virus and the neurological manifestations.

Despite the pandemic year, the Encephalitis Society has continued its aim of contributing to, and funding research on encephalitis. We have launched our third year of seed funding which is aimed at projects in low-to-middle income countries. Plans for our annual conference - Encephalitis 2021 - are under way. After the 2020 virtual conference saw a record number of participants (257 delegates from 34 countries) we are delighted to adopt a new conference format - a hybrid with both face-to-face (Royal College of Physicians, London) and virtual attendance on 7th December 2021. We urge you to submit an abstract and register for the Conference.

Thank you for your interest in encephalitis and our Society. Finally a big thank you from us to all those clinicians, scientists and researchers working hard to improve our understanding of this often devastating condition.

Research Summary-Advances in Encephalitis 2020 

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