The 7 most devastating viral neurological infections

One may be forgiven for thinking that neurology is all about neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. This is because these disorders seem to get a lot of attention. But nothing could be further from the truth-globally, infections impose a heavier burden on neurological practice than say Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or Parkinson’s disease (PD). And medical advances have done very little to deter all sorts of creatures from invading the nervous system.

Bacteria. Cesar Herada on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/worldworldworld/4095866396/

The major types of organisms that infect the nervous system are viruses and bacteria, but fungi and parasites also take their toll. In this blog we will focus on the 7 most devastating viral neurological infections.

CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

1.  Viral encephalitis

Encephalitis is infection of the brain substance, as opposed to meningitis which is infection of the covering of the brain. Viral encephalitis, for some reason, tends to favour the temporal lobes of the brain causing seizures and memory problems, amongst other symptoms. The main villain responsible for viral encephalitis is herpes simplex type 1 (HSV1), but almost every other virus can carry out the job with deadly precision. The list is long and includes geographically specific viruses as West Nile and Japanese B. Check out the full list of causes of viral encephalitis and its management.

Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1: Procapsid and Mature Capsid. NIH Image gallery on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/nihgov/28295539863

2. HIV associated neurological infections

No part of the nervous system is immune to the ravages of the dreaded HIV. The list includes HIV  associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND)myelopathiesneuropathies, drug-induced syndromes, and tumours. The worst aspect of HIV, of course, is that it opens the flood gates for opportunistic infections to invade the nervous system.

By BruceBlausOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

3. Hepatitis E virus (HEV)

Hepatitis E virus is just emerging as a scourge of neurology. It is particularly villainous because of its protean manifestations, from Guillain Barre syndrome (GBS) to neuralgic amyotrophy (brachial neuritis), from transverse myelitis to idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). Check out the full neurological manifestations of HEV.

By Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #5605.Note: Not all PHIL images are public domain; be sure to check copyright status and credit authors and content providers.English | Slovenščina | +/−, Public Domain, Link

4. Influenza H1N1

Influenza is bad, and H1N1 is a particularly nasty variant. This subtype of Influenza A is epidemic in pigs and birds, and unleashes havoc when it crosses over to humans. Its nervous system manifestations include encephalopathyGuillain Barre syndrome (GBS), acute demyelinating encephalomyelopathy (ADEM), and stroke. Not one to be treated lightly at all. Check out everything about Influenza H1N1 and the different ways influenza affects the nervous system.

H1N1 influenza viral particles. NIAID on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/niaid/8414750984

5. Zika virus infection (ZIKV)

This new kid on the infection block is fast establishing itself as a menace. Apart from causing myelitis, meningoencephalitis, encephalitis, encephalomyelitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), and myasthenia gravis (MG), it is responsible for a variety of congenital defects, particularly microcephaly. Zika virus pathology and management are extensively covered in neurochecklists. Or check out 20 things we now know for certain about the Zika virus on our sister blog, The Neurology Lounge.

By Manuel Almagro RivasOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

6. Ebola virus disease (EVD)

This ancient virus gained recent notoriety when it ravaged a large section of West Africa, sending chilling waves across the world. It is an RNA filovirus whose main reservoir is bats. It causes, among other things, an encephalitis and meningoencephalitis. It appears to be on vacation in the meantme, but it will surely rear its ugly head sometime soon. Check out the comprehensive clinical features and management of Ebola virus disease on neurochecklists.

By Scientific Animations – http://www.scientificanimations.com/wiki-images/, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

7. Varicella zoster virus (VZV)

The varicella virus must take the prize for the most diverse ways a virus affects the nervous system. Neurochecklists has listed >20 neurological manifestations of VZV, ranging from herpes zoster to post herpetic neuralgia (PHN), from meningitis to encephalitis. VZV also causes all forms of cranial and peripheral neropathy, and may result in stroke, aneurysms, and giant cell arteritis (GCA). Not to mention the curiously named progressive outer retinal necrosis (just don’t mention its acronym!). Check out the full VZV on neurochecklists.

 Watch out for the top 7 bacterial neurological infections in a future blog post.
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2 thoughts on “The 7 most devastating viral neurological infections

  1. I really appreciate this article. Thank you for publishing it. I have many autoimmune disorders including Peripheral Neuropathy caused by the FGFR3 ANTIBODY. I am looking for help, other than the only option offered to me of using IV Steroidal Solumedrol treatment. Hope you can help! Thank you. Darlia

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