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Clin Infect Dis. 1997 Jul;25(1):86-91.

Evaluation of the range of clinical presentations of herpes simplex encephalitis by using polymerase chain reaction assay of cerebrospinal fluid samples.

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Department of Pathology, University of São Paulo, Brazil.


Detection of DNA from herpes simplex virus in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis has been shown to be more sensitive and specific for the diagnosis of herpes simplex encephalitis than isolation of herpes simplex virus from biopsy specimens of brain tissue. Because of the invasiveness of brain biopsy, it has been suggested that PCR analysis of CSF may reveal a wider spectrum of the disease than has been previously recognized by brain biopsy studies. In this study, PCR assay of CSF samples obtained from 29, 12, and 8 patients with focal, mild, and diffuse encephalitis, respectively, was performed. PCR assay was positive for 15 (51.7%) of 29 patients with focal encephalitis and three (25%) of 12 patients with mild encephalitis. The correlation between temporal abnormalities shown by electroencephalography, computed tomography of the brain, or cranial magnetic resonance imaging and a positive PCR assay was high. PCR analysis has revealed that atypical and less severe forms of encephalitis are caused by herpes simplex virus.

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