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Infection. 2013 Feb;41(1):27-31. doi: 10.1007/s15010-012-0292-z. Epub 2012 Jul 14.

Detection of herpes viruses in the cerebrospinal fluid of adults with suspected viral meningitis in Malawi.

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Brain Infections Group, Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, and Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, The Apex Building, 8 West Derby Street, Liverpool, L69 7BE, UK.



We looked for herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2, respectively), varicella zoster virus (VZV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) DNA in Malawian adults with clinically suspected meningitis.


We collected cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from consecutive adults admitted with clinically suspected meningitis to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), Blantyre, Malawi, for a period of 3 months. Those with proven bacterial or fungal meningitis were excluded. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed on the CSF for HSV-1 and HSV-2, VZV, EBV and CMV DNA.


A total of 183 patients presented with clinically suspected meningitis. Of these, 59 (32 %) had proven meningitis (bacterial, tuberculous or cryptococcal), 39 (21 %) had normal CSF and 14 (8 %) had aseptic meningitis. For the latter group, a herpes virus was detected in 9 (64 %): 7 (50 %) had EBV and 2 (14 %) had CMV, all were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive. HSV-2 and VZV were not detected. Amongst those with a normal CSF, 8 (21 %) had a detectable herpes virus, of which 7 (88 %) were HIV-positive.


The spectrum of causes of herpes viral meningitis in this African population is different to that in Western industrialised settings, with EBV being frequently detected in the CSF. The significance of this needs further investigation.

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