Viral central nervous system infections. Literature review


Diana Daščioraitė1, Gabija Tamaliūnaitė1

1Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Medical Academy, Faculty of Medicine


Viruses are common cause of central nervous system (CNS) infections, the expression of which is determined by the patient’s age, sex, immune system and the surrounding environment. Viruses can affect the CNS by several mechanisms, either directly on the brain  – causing encephalitis, damaging only the lining of the brain to cause meningitis, or acting on several areas of the CNS at the same time to cause encephalomyelitis or meningoencephalitis. Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain that results in a change in mental status, personality changes, abnormal behavior or speech, and movement disorders. Focal neurological symptoms such as hemiparesis, paralysis or paresthesias may also occur. Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, most commonly manifested by neck stiffness, headache, photophobia and rigidity. The most common viruses causing CNS infections are: Herpes simplex, Varicella – zoster, Epstein – Bar, Cytomegal, tick – borne encephalitis, enteroviruses. Viruses are usually detected by cerebrospinal fluid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) looking for the DNA or RNA of the causative agents. Damage to the CNS system is usually detected by computed tomography (CT) of the head. Treatment of viral CNS infections should be initiated as soon as the disease is suspected. All CNS infections are treated symptomatically and the antiviral drug is determined after the causative agent has been identified.

Keywords: central nervous system, infection, meningitis, encephalitis.