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Abstract

The pathophysiological role of neural autoantibodies in acute psychotic disorders is receiving increased attention. However, there is still an ongoing debate, whether predominantly psychotic manifestations of autoimmune encephalitides exist that may remain undetected and, thus, untreated. Furthermore, it is discussed if such conditions can be diagnosed based on serum antibody results or if a reliable diagnosis requires additional cerebrospinal fluids (CSF) results. In this study, we screened pairs of serum and CSF samples from antipsychotic-naive individuals with first-episode schizophrenic psychosis (FEP, n = 103), clinical high risk for psychosis (CHR, n = 47), and healthy volunteers (HV, n = 40) for eight different antibodies against various antigens that have been shown to be associated with autoimmune encephalitides: N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR, NR1 subunits only), glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD65), leucine-rich glioma inactivated protein 1 (LGI1), contactin-associated protein-like 2 protein (CASPR2), alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor (AMPAR) subunit 1, AMPAR subunit 2, gamma-aminobutyric acid-B receptors (GABABR), and glycine receptors. All patients were within the norm with regards to a careful neurological examination, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, an electroencephalogram (EEG), and routine blood pathology. All CSF samples were autoantibody-negative. In three serum samples of individuals with FEP, we detected low-titer CASPR2 immunoglobulin (Ig) G antibodies (≤1:160, n = 2) and non-IgG antibodies against NMDAR (n = 1) (overall serum-autoantibody prevalence in FEP: 2.91%). However, the IgG titers were below the laboratory cut-off defined for positivity, and non-IgG antibodies are of no clinical relevance. This suggests that there were no cases of autoimmune encephalitis in our cohort. Our results highlight the importance and the high specificity of CSF analysis to reliably detect autoantibodies. They confirm the hypothesis that pure psychotic manifestations of antibody-associated autoimmune encephalitides without any additional neuropsychiatric findings are very rare. However, special attention must be paid to those presenting with atypical mental illnesses with additional neurological symptoms, evidence of clinically-significant cognitive involvement, profound sleep-wake perturbations, seizures, electroencephalographic, or magnetic resonance imaging pathologies to be able to identify cases with autoimmune-mediated psychiatric syndromes. Copyright © 2021 Bien, Rohleder, Mueller, Bien, Koethe and Leweke.