Exacerbation of Herpes Simplex Encephalitis after Successful Treatment with Acyclovir

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Herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) in children sometimes exacerbates after successful treatment; yet the frequency, etiology, and clinical features of exacerbation remain unclear. We report data for 27 children with HSE confirmed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis; all were successfully treated with acyclovir, but 7 (26%) had a relapse of encephalitic illness. In 2 of those 7, serial examination with a PCR assay showed that herpes simplex virus (HSV) DNA reappeared temporarily in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). For 5 of the 7 patients, a second course of acyclovir therapy was effective. Coxsackievirus A9 was isolated from CSF of 1 case patient during subsequent exacerbation. The total dose during initial acyclovir therapy was significantly lower in the relapse group than in the control group (P= .027). In conclusion, exacerbation of HSE in children may be more common than previously recognized. It is suggested that the replication of HSV or another viral pathogen caused a second encephalitic illness (HSE) in some cases.

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