Purpose: Glutamic acid decarboxylase antibodies (GADAs) have been detected in patients with epilepsy, but the clinical determinants of epilepsy associated with GADA have not been defined.
Methods: We analyzed GADA with a radioimmunoassay in sera of 253 well-characterized patients with epilepsy and 200 control subjects. The positive samples were confirmed by immunohistochemistry and western blotting (WB). Sera were screened for other autoantibodies.
Results: GADA were detected in 15 patients (5.9%) and in three control subjects (1.5%) (p = 0.026). Seven patients (2.8%) had high GADA titers [≥1,000 relative units (RUs)/ml], six of whom had temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). All three GADA-positive control subjects had low titers. Two of the five patients with high GADA titers and available cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples had intrathecal synthesis (IS) of GADA; one patient had CSF oligoclonal bands. The prevalence of increased levels of GADA tended to be higher in patients with TLE than in patients with extra-TLE [odds ratio (OR) 1.32, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.39–4.42; p = 0.657]. The patients with high GADA titers had significantly higher number of other autoantibodies compared to the patients with low GADA titers (p = 0.001) and the patients with normal GADA (p < 0.001).
Discussion: High GADA titers were present in a subgroup of patients; close to 90% had TLE. The immunologic profile of these patients suggests that the most probable origin of their epilepsy is autoimmune. A positive IS of GADA may be a marker of an ongoing immune response that could identify those patients in whom a trial with immunosuppressive therapy might be warranted.