The prognosis varies depending on the cause of encephalitis. Some cases are mild, short, and relatively benign, with patients having a full recovery. Other cases are severe, possibly leading to permanent impairment or even death.
The acute phase of encephalitis may last for one to two weeks, with gradual or sudden resolution of fever and neurological symptoms. Neurological symptoms may require many months before full recovery.
Current research efforts include gaining a better understanding of how the central nervous system responds to inflammation and the role of T cells (blood cells involved in immune system response) in suppressing infection in the brain.
Scientists hope to better understand the molecular mechanisms involved in the protection and disruption of the blood-brain barrier, which could lead to the development of new treatments for several neuroinflammatory diseases such as meningitis and encephalitis.
Other scientists hope to define, at a molecular level, how certain viruses overcome the body's defense mechanism and interact with target host cells.
A possible treatment under investigation involves testing neuroprotective compounds that block the damage that accumulates after the inflammation of encephalitis. (This damage can lead to potential complications including dementia and loss of cognitive function.)