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Transplantation. 2000 Jun 27;69(12):2474-9.

Encephalitis caused by human herpesvirus-6 in transplant recipients: relevance of a novel neurotropic virus.

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Veterans Affairs Medical Center and University of Pittsburgh, Thomas E Starzl Transplantation Center, Pennsylvania, USA.



Human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6) is a neurotropic virus. Encephalitis is a significant clinical manifestation of HHV-6; however, sparse data on this entity exist in transplant recipients.


Cases of HHV-6 encephalitis reported in the literature (13 bone marrow transplant recipients and 1 liver transplant recipient) were reviewed. The diagnosis was established in all by viral isolation and/or detection of HHV-6 DNA in the cerebrospinal fluid by polymerase chain reaction or histopathologic method.


HHV-6 encephalitis occurred a median of 45 days (range 10 days to 15 months) after transplantation. Mental status changes, ranging from confusion to coma (92%), seizures (25%), and headache (25%) were the predominant clinical presentations. Focal neurologic findings occurred in only 17% of the patients. Twenty-five percent of the patients had fever; however, the height of fever (< or =40 degrees C) in febrile patients was striking. Cerebrospinal fluid pleocytosis was generally lacking. Abnormal neuroimaging findings, characterized by low-attenuation lesions in the posterior cerebral lobes, were present only in 17% of the patients. Overall mortality in patients with HHV-6 encephalitis was 58% (7 of 12); 42% (5 of 12) of the deaths were caused by HHV-6. Cure was documented in 7 of 8 patients who received ganciclovir or foscarnet for > or =7 days, compared with 0% (0 of 4) in those who did not receive these drugs or received them for < 7 days (P=.01).


HHV-6 may be associated with encephalitis after transplantation and warrants consideration in transplant recipients with encephalitis of unidentifiable etiology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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