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Ann Neurol. 2009 Mar;65(3):257-67. doi: 10.1002/ana.21611.

Detection of human herpesvirus-6 in cerebrospinal fluid of patients with encephalitis.

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Viral Immunology Section, Neuroimmunology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.



Virus infections are the most common causes of encephalitis, a syndrome characterized by acute inflammation of the brain. More than 150 different viruses have been implicated in the pathogenesis of encephalitis; however, because of limitations with diagnostic testing, causative factors of more than half of the cases remain unknown.


To investigate whether human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6) is a causative agent of encephalitis, we examined for evidence of virus infection by determining the presence of viral sequence using polymerase chain reaction and assessed HHV-6 antibody reactivity in the cerebrospinal fluid of encephalitis patients with unknown cause. In a cohort study, we compared virus-specific antibody levels in cerebrospinal fluid samples of patients with encephalitis, relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, and other neurological diseases.


Our results demonstrated increased levels of HHV-6 IgG, as well as IgM levels, in a subset of encephalitis patients compared with other neurological diseases. Moreover, cell-free viral DNA that is indicative of active infection was detected in 40% (14/35) of encephalitis patients, whereas no amplifiable viral sequence was found in either relapsing-remitting MS or other neurological diseases patients. In addition, a significant correlation between polymerase chain reaction detection and anti-HHV-6 antibody response was also demonstrated.


Collectively, these results suggested HHV-6 as a possible pathogen in a subset of encephalitis cases.

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