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BMJ Case Rep. 2019 Aug 13;12(8). pii: e229468. doi: 10.1136/bcr-2019-229468.

Herpes simplex virus encephalitis in a patient receiving ustekinumab associated with extensive cerebral oedema and brainshift successfully treated by immunosuppression with dexamethasone.

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Neurology, The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool, UK.
Department of Clinical Infection Microbiology and Immunology, Institute of Infection and Global Health, Liverpool, UK.


Herpes simplex virus (HSV) encephalitis affects 2-4 people per million/year. Immunocompomised patients can have atypical presentations of HSV encephalitis, including a lack of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pleocytosis. We present the case of a patient who was receiving ustekinumab therapy for psoriasis which inhibits interleukin (IL)-12 and IL-23 signalling pathways. The initial presentation was suggestive of encephalitis, but he was discharged prior to the reporting of HSV positivity due to the lack of CSF pleocytosis. On representation, he had worsening symptoms and imaging showed midline shift, indicating cerebral oedema despite the immunosupressant effects of ustekinumab. He required intensive care unit support and treatment with high dose aciclovir and dexamethasone; after a month of treatment he made a good recovery. This case is the first to report a link between ustekinumab and HSV encephalitis, and also emphasises that imunocompromised patients can lack CSF pleocytosis and develop significant cerebral oedema which responds to immune suppression.


infection (neurology); infections; neuro itu; skin; unwanted effects/adverse reactions


Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: BDM reports grants from National Institute of Heath Research, grants from Welcome Trust, grants from Academy of Medical Sciences, grants from British Medical Association, grants from British Infection Association, outside the submitted work. NS reports personal fees from Novatis, personal fees from Eli Lilly, personal fees from Teva, personal fees from Allergan, personal fees from Electrocore, outside the submitted work.

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