A Multinational Survey on Actual Diagnostics and Treatment of Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis

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Abstract

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a chronic infection of the central nervous system caused by the measles virus (MV). Its prevalence remains high in resource poor countries and is likely to increase in the Northern Europe as vaccination rates decrease. Clinical knowledge of this devastating condition, however, is limited. We therefore conducted this multinational survey summarizing experience obtained from more than 500 patients treated by 24 physicians in seven countries. SSPE should be considered in all patients presenting with otherwise unexplained acquired neurological symptoms. In most patients, the diagnosis will be established by the combination of typical clinical symptoms (characteristic repetitive myoclonic jerks), a strong intrathecal synthesis of antibodies to MV and typical electroencephalogram findings (Radermecker complexes). Whereas the therapeutic use of different antiviral (amantadine, ribavirin) and immunomodulatory drugs (isoprinosine, interferons) and of immunoglobulins has been reported repeatedly, optimum application regimen of these drugs has not been established. This is partly due to the absence of common diagnostic and clinical standards focusing on neurological and psychosocial aspects. Carbamazepine, levetiracetam, and clobazam are the drugs most frequently used to control myoclonic jerks. We have established a consensus on essential laboratory and clinical parameters that should facilitate collaborative studies. Those are urgently needed to improve outcome.

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