CURE Grantee Uncovers Potential Cause of Childhood Epilepsy
CURE (Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy) Grantee Peter Crino, MD, PhD, has found important new evidence that the Human papillomavirus (HPV) – the most common cause of cervical cancer – may be linked to childhood epilepsy. This breakthrough discovery may lead to a definable cause and treatment for focal cortical dysplasia type IIB (FCDIIB). Dr. Crino’s work has significant ramifications for how we think about this type of childhood epilepsy and could lead to new approaches to treatment and prevention.
Specifically, the connection was identified in brain tissue from children who had surgery for FCDIIB, a form of focal malformations of cortical development (FMCD). Cortical dysplasias are malformations of the brain which occur during development and often associated with severe and difficult to treat epilepsy. Seizures in children with FMCD are often resistant to treatment with existing drugs.
According to CURE’s Senior Research Advisor Dr. Steve White, “The findings by Dr. Crino and his colleagues are particularly interesting because they suggest that a common form of childhood epilepsy is associated with maternal exposure to HPV. This research provides important insight into the cause of this form of childhood epilepsy and suggests a causal link to a virus most notably associated with human cervical cancer.” This novel finding by Dr. Crino and his colleagues is extremely important because it acknowledges a potential cause of FCDIIB and raises the important question as to whether this type of epilepsy could be prevented or modified by early screening and HPV vaccination.
Dr. White added, “It is not known whether other cortical malformations could result from HPV exposure; however, these findings will certainly change how we think about the causes of epilepsy.”
Dr. Crino is the first investigator to document the relationship between an infectious disease of the mother and epilepsy in the child. As more young women are getting vaccinated against HPV, infection rates are declining. Theoretically, this could prevent the development of this type of epilepsy in future generations.
In 2012, Dr. Crino received CURE’s Challenge Award to pursue his hypothesis that focal malformations of cortical development are associated with HPV. His recent successes imply that HPV may be identified as a new infectious cause of epilepsy, thus presenting the possibility that it may be treatable – or even preventable – by treating for HPV.
Dr. Crino has been conducting research at Temple University. His revolutionary discovery was recently published in the Annals of Neurology.