Varicella zoster virus infection of the central nervous system in a tertiary care center in Lebanon

H. Tabaja, S. L. Sharara, Y. Abi Aad, N. Beydoun, S. Tabbal, A. Makki, R. Mahfouz, S. S. Kanj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe the clinical manifestations and treatment outcomes of patients with VZV meningitis and encephalitis consulting at two medical centers in Lebanon. Methods: Retrospective study of patients with VZV meningitis and/or encephalitis confirmed by positive cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) VZV PCR. Results: Twenty patients were identified (13 males). The average age was 49.7 ± 22.2 years. The most common complaint was headache (n = 17/20). Common comorbidities included hypertension (n = 7/20) and diabetes mellitus (n = 5/20). Immunosuppression was reported in two patients. Vesicles were only observed in eight patients. Altered mental status, focal neurological deficits, and fever were documented in six, two, and four patients respectively. All patients had CSF leukocytosis with lymphocytic predominance, normal CSF/serum glucose ratio, and high CSF protein. Eighteen patients had brain CT scans showing no relevant findings. Two of 12 patients with brain MRI had focal abnormalities. Unilateral temporal slow waves were observed in three of four patients who underwent electroencephalograms. Four patients had encephalitis and 16 had meningitis. Eighteen patients received an antiviral therapy. Treatment either included intravenous acyclovir or oral valacyclovir. The encephalitis and meningitis groups had comparable mean duration of treatment (13.5 ± 6.6 vs. 12.2 ± 5.4, respectively). All admitted patients showed clinical cure with no reported neurological sequelae. Conclusion: VZV infection should be suspected in any patient with signs and symptoms of viral meningitis or encephalitis, irrespective of age, immune status, presence or absence of vesicles, fever, or neck stiffness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-287
Number of pages8
JournalMedecine et Maladies Infectieuses
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Infectious Diseases


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