Article published by NewsMedical
Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have discovered higher levels of immune proteins in the blood before and after an epileptic seizure. The possible biomarkers can be identified using a simple blood test. Diagnosing epilepsy is currently resource-intensive and distinguishing it from other conditions can be challenging. Better diagnostic methods as soon as the patient seeks medical care after a suspected seizure is therefore an urgent necessity.
Epilepsy is the collective name for abnormal activity in the brain that causes temporary loss of control of behavior and movement. The condition can be congenital, be caused by a tumor, stroke or infection in the brain and cause very different symptoms depending on which part of the brain the episode begins in or spreads to. Inflammation processes that start as an immune response in the body can also provoke a seizure. That is why researchers started to look for possible biomarkers for epilepsy within the immune system. Previous studies exist, but the results have so far been mixed and difficult to interpret.
“In our study, we have a carefully selected group of participants, and we have a lot of background information on each person. We have also taken into account a number of confounding factors that may affect the immune system such as other neurological and immunological illnesses, infections and various psychiatric conditions,” said Christine Ekdahl Clementson. She is a group leader and associate professor at Lund University and a Consultant in Clinical Neurophysiology at Skåne University Hospital. Her focus is on advanced epilepsy investigations, and she has led the research study. The research team has also compared epileptic seizures with what are known as psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. Psychogenic seizure is a psychiatric diagnosis that manifests itself through clinical symptoms that can easily be mistaken for epilepsy. It is a chronic condition that is believed to be underdiagnosed and as a result is often mistakenly treated with epilepsy medication. That is why there is a great need to be able to distinguish between the conditions more easily.
“The investigation to establish whether someone is suffering from epilepsy or is affected by psychogenic seizures is resource intensive. It may require the patient to be admitted to hospital for several days with constant video and EEG surveillance, with medical staff on hand around the clock. It is hard on the patient that it takes time to reach a diagnosis,” says Marie Taylor, physician and doctoral student in the research team.
Researchers discovered that levels of five inflammation markers – proteins – were elevated acutely in people who had experienced an epileptic seizure.