Fulminant multiorgan failure due to varicella zoster virus and HHV6 in an immunocompetent adult patient, and anhepatia

U. Maggi, R. Russo, G. Conte, D. Chiumello, G. Lunghi, M. Maggioni, M. L. Caspani, R. Arnoldi, D. Dondossola, G. Rossi

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Varicella is a well-known contagious disease of childhood that can also affect both immunodepressed and immunocompetent adults. The present observations concern a previously healthy adult patient who presented with a fulminant hepatitis evolving in multiorgan failure (MOF), associated with an atypical papulo-ethemateous cutaneous rash without fever. An hepatic biopsy showed massive necrosis. Because of the persistent MOF and severe hemodynamic instability, total hepatectomy was performed as a bridge to urgent liver transplantation (OLT). Despite temporary improvement, the patients condition progressively deteriorated and he died 11 hours after the hepatectomy, i.e. 7 days after admission to the intensive care unit. High viral loads of varicella zoster virus (VZV) and human herpes virus 6 (HHV6) were demonstrated in the blood and in DNA at post mortem examination of the liver, kidneys, lung, and heart. We hypothesize that VZV infection may occasionally occur in immunocompetent patients due to extremely virulent strains that can be rapidly fatal. The clinical influence of simultaneous infection with HHV6 is not clear. Moreover, the role of a previous steroid treatment as a trigger for a temporary immunodepressed state must be considered. The diagnosis of liver disease from VZV should always be clinically suspected in the presence of concurrent atypical skin lesions and a temporarily immunocompromised state. Therapy with acyclovir was ineffective in our patient. Based on the wide spectrum of VZV infections, fulminant MOF in immunocompetent adults must raise the possibility of VZV with simultaneous HHV6 infection with early listing of the patient for a urgent OLT, possibly with a total hepatectomy as a bridge, due to the therapeutic uncertainty of medical treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1184-1186
Number of pages3
JournalTransplantation Proceedings
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Transplantation


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