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Less Than Half of Encephalitis Due to Infectious Diseases

Last Updated: October 20, 2010.

Less than one-half of encephalitis cases in England were found to be attributable to infectious diseases, with the cause of encephalitis unclear in more than one-third of patients with a poor prognosis, according to a study published online Oct. 18 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Less than one-half of encephalitis cases in England were found to be attributable to infectious diseases, with the cause of encephalitis unclear in more than one-third of patients with a poor prognosis, according to a study published online Oct. 18 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Julia Granerod, of the Health Protection Agency in London, and colleagues evaluated 203 patients with encephalitis, actively recruited for two years (staged start between October 2005 and November 2006) from 24 hospitals.

The investigators found that encephalitis was due to infectious causes in 42 percent of patients, including 19 percent with herpes simplex virus, 5 percent with varicella zoster virus, 5 percent with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and 37 percent with unknown causes. The data also revealed 42 patients (21 percent) had acute immune-mediated encephalitis. Compared to patients who survived, those that died were more likely to be immunocompromised (odds ratio, 3.44). Patients with antibody-associated encephalitis experienced the worst outcome of all groups.

"Early diagnosis of encephalitis is crucial to ensure that the right treatment is given on time," the authors conclude. "Extensive testing substantially reduced the proportion with unknown cause, but the proportion of cases with unknown cause was higher than that for any specific identified cause."

One author disclosed receiving royalties from Euroimmun AG and Athena Diagnostic, as well as payments for antibody assays.

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