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Hum Pathol. 2004 Aug;35(8):983-90.

Clinicopathologic study and laboratory diagnosis of 23 cases with West Nile virus encephalomyelitis.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.


The differences in pathologic findings of fatal cases of West Nile virus (WNV) encephalitis in the context of underlying conditions and illness duration are not well known. During 2002, we studied central nervous system (CNS) tissue samples from 23 patients who had serologic and immunohistochemical (IHC) evidence of a recent WNV infection. Fifteen patients had underlying medical conditions (5 malignancies, 3 renal transplants, 3 with diabetes or on dialysis, 2 with AIDS, and 2 receiving steroids). WNV serology was positive for 18 patients, negative for 2, and not available for 3. Perivascular lymphocytic infiltrates, microglial nodules, and loss of neurons were predominantly observed in the brainstem and anterior horns in the spinal cord. IHC using antibodies against flaviviruses and WNV showed viral antigens in 12 (52%) of 23 patients. Viral antigens were found inside neurons and neuronal processes predominantly in the brainstem and anterior horns. In general, the antigens were focal and sparse; however, in 4 severely immunosuppressed patients, extensive viral antigens were seen throughout the CNS. Positive IHC staining was observed in tissues of 7 of 8 patients who died within 1 week after illness onset, compared with 4 of 14 with more than 2 weeks' illness duration. WNV causes an encephalomyelitis by primarily affecting brainstem and spinal cord. Differences in the amount of viral antigen may be related to underlying medical conditions and length of survival. IHC can be an important diagnostic method, particularly during the 1st week of illness, when antigen levels are high.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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