Clinical Correlations of Positive Herpes Simplex PCR in Cerebrospinal Fluid

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Objectives:Herpes simplex viruses (HSV) can produce encephalitis (HSE), which requires early detection, typically using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). However, other neurological conditions not directly caused by HSV may also present with a positive HSV PCR in the CSF (NCNHPCR+). We aimed to analyze the clinical features of both groups of patients (HSE vs. NCNHPCR+) and to consider the potential relevance of this finding in the latter.Methods:A retrospective analysis of clinical presentation, workup (CSF, EEG, and MRI) and outcome of patients with an HSV+ result in CSF was conducted from Jan-2007 to Sep-2015 in our institution. Patients under 18 years and those with nonencephalitic HSV associated disorders were excluded. Group comparison between HSE and NCNHPCR+ patients was conducted using parametric and nonparametric tests accordingly.Results:Sixteen HSE and 23 NCNHPCR+ patients were included. Patients with HSE presented a higher incidence of headache (87.5% vs. 43.5%; P=0.008), meningeal symptoms (50% vs. 17.4%; P=0.04), pleocytosis (75% vs. 18%; P=0.001), EEG abnormalities (46.67% vs. 22%; P=0.02) and typical MRI findings (50% vs. 0%; P<0.001), whereas 35% of patients with NCNHPCR+ had an underlying immunologic disorder (35% vs. 0%; P=0.012).Conclusions:The pathogenic role of HSV in NCNHPCR+ is uncertain. This finding must be interpreted in the appropriate clinical, EEG, and neuroimaging context. Immunocompromise and neuroinflammation states could be related to a higher presence of HSV in CSF.

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