A case of meningitis due to varicella zoster virus reactivation in an immunocompetent child

Susanna Esposito, Samantha Bosis, Raffaella Pinzani, Laura Morlacchi, Laura Senatore, Nicola Principi

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Background: The development of neurological complications due to varicella zoster virus (VZV) reactivation is relatively uncommon, particularly in the case of immunocompetent patients. Only a few cases have been described in the literature, most of which involved adult or elderly patients. Clinical presentation. Two days after his pediatrician had diagnosed herpes zoster and prescribed oral acyclovir 400 mg three times a day, a 14-year-old boy was admitted to our hospital because of mild fever, severe headache, slowness, drowsiness and vomiting. A cerebrospinal fluid examination was performed and showed an increased protein concentration (95 mg/dL), normal glucose level (48 mg/dL; blood glucose level, 76 mg/dL) and lymphocytic pleocytosis (1,400 lymphocytes/μL), and VZV DNA was detected by means of polymerase chain reaction (1,250 copies/mL). The results of immunological screening for HIV, lymphocyte subpopulation counts, serum immunoglobulin and complement (C3 and C4) levels, vaccine responsiveness and lymphocytes stimulation tests were unremarkable. Acyclovir was administered intravenously at a dose of 10 mg/kg three times a day and continued for 10 days. The therapy was highly effective and the patient's clinical condition rapidly improved: fever disappeared after two days, and all of the signs and symptoms of neurological involvement after four days. The skin lesions resolved in about one week, and no pain or dysesthesia was ever reported. Given the favourable evolution of the illness, the child was discharged without further therapy after the 10-day treatment. The findings of a magnetic resonance examination immediately after the discontinuation of the antiviral therapy were normal, and a control examination carried out about four weeks later did not find any sign or symptom of disease. Conclusion: VZV reactivation can also lead to various neurological complications in immunocompetent children. Prompt therapy with acyclovir and the integrity of the immune system are important in conditioning outcome, but other currently unknown factors probably also play a role.

Original languageEnglish
Article number72
JournalItalian Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Herpes zoster
  • Varicella
  • Varicella zoster virus
  • VZV reactivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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