Incidence and pathogenesis of clinical relapse after herpes simplex encephalitis in adults

Stockholm University, Tukholma, Stockholm, Sweden
Journal of Neurology (Impact Factor: 3.84). 03/2006; 253(2):163-70. DOI: 10.1007/s00415-005-0941-6
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To study the occurrence of relapse of herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) and to find out whether soluble activity markers in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) indicate direct viral or immune- mediated events.
A consecutive series of 32 adult survivors of HSE were followed to determine the incidence of clinical relapse of HSE. Four patients had neurological deterioration interpreted as relapsing HSE. Four non-relapsing HSE cases were selected as matched controls. Fifty nine batched, paired CSF and serum samples from the eight HSE patients were analysed for soluble activity markers, predominantly cytokines and mediators (interferon-gamma, soluble CD8, tumour necrosis factor-alpha, and interleukin-10), amount of HSV-DNA and markers of glial and neuronal destruction (neurofilament protein, glial fibrillary acidic protein, S-100-beta, and neuron specific enolase).
Relapse of HSE was diagnosed in 3 of 26 (12 %) acyclovir-treated patients (5 episodes during 6.1 years of followup) and in 1 of 6 vidarabine-recipients. All relapses occurred from 1 to 4 months after acute HSE, except for a second relapse after 3.3 years in one patient. Computer tomography at relapses revealed few abnormalities apart from those found during the primary disease. Intravenous acyclovir and corticosteroids were given for 7-21 days in all the relapse patients. All relapse patients seemed to recover to the pre-relapse condition. HSV-DNA was demonstrated in CSF in all patients during the acute stage but not in any of 13 CSF samples taken during relapse phases. The HSV viral load during the acute stage of HSE was not higher or of longer duration in the relapsing patients than in the non-relapsing HSE controls. The levels of sCD8 were increased in nearly all CSF samples tested with peaks of sCD8 at one month of acute HSE. In all episodes of relapse, sCD8 peaks were detected during the first week at high levels. CSF levels of neuron-specific enolase, S-100 and glial fibrillary acidic protein were markedly lower at relapse than at the acute stage of HSV-1 encephalitis.
The lack of demonstrable HSV DNA in CSF, the lack of acute CSF signs and the lack of signs of neural and glia cells destruction indicate that a direct viral cytotoxicity is not the major pathogenic mechanism in relapse. Instead, the pronounced CSF proinflammatory immunological response and the relative lack of CSF anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 response suggest immunologically-mediated pathogenicity.

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    ABSTRACT: Herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) is the most common cause of non-epidemic, acute and fatal viral encephalitis. A pronounced mortality and morbidity remains in HSE despite antiviral treatment. There is evidence of a vigorous intrathecal immune activity in acute phases of HSE and of persistently increased activity at follow-ups after years. The role of apoptosis of neuronal cells in HSE patients as a mechanism of damage has been brought up lately. We hypothesize that the severity and the progression of the cerebral injury resulting from HSE can be evaluated by quantitative measurement of a compartment of immune activation molecules i.e. soluble Fas (sFas) involved in apoptosis through the Fas/Fas Ligand pathway. Consecutive cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from a prospectively followed cohort, included in an antiviral treatment trial in HSE, were enrolled for quantitative measurement of sFas using commercial capture ELISA. In total, CSF samples from 49 patients with HSE, 63 patients with non-HSE encephalitis and 18 healthy individuals were studied. High levels of sFas were expressed in CSF samples collected between days 0-45 after neurological onset in 41/49 (84%) HSE patients, whereas only 21/63 (33%) of non-HSE patients and none of 18 healthy controls demonstrated measurable levels of sFas. Following the consecutive CSF sFas levels over the time and considering the clinical state of patients at admission, their neurological or lethal outcome at 12 months, and antiviral treatment, we observed that HSE patients with severe neurological sequels revealed an increase in changes of CSF sFas as compared to patients with mild or moderate neurological outcome (57.6+/-55.6 pg/ml, n=10 versus 26.3+/-97.5 pg/ml, n=14; P=0.008). Also HSE patients undergoing vidarabine treatment expressed significantly higher levels of changes of CSF sFas when compared to acyclovir-treated patients (63.7+/-52.8 pg/ml, n=9 versus 26.1+/-98.4 pg/ml, n=14; P=0.003). Interestingly, regardless of the clinical state at admission, and subsequent disease progression of the HSE patients, we could not observe any significant differences in the CSF sFas levels during the first 7 days of neurological symptoms. These observations underline the role of immunological response throughout the course of HSV infection in the brain and the role of the Fas/FasL pathway in particular in disease progression of HSE. The findings further enforce the need of expanding the knowledge of the pathogenesis of HSE to direct to more effective, in particular not only antiviral but also anti-apoptotic or anti-inflammatory treatment.
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