Background: Viral or bacterial infections can trigger auto-immune inflammatory reactions and conditions in children. Self-reactivity arises due to similarities in molecular structures between pathogenic microorganisms and regular body structures with consequent immune-cross reactions. Reactivation of latent Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) infections can cause neurological sequalae, including cerebellitis, post-herpetic neuralgias, meningo/encephalitis, vasculopathy and myelopathy. We propose a syndrome caused by auto-immune reactivity triggered by molecular mimicry between VZV and the brain, culminating in a post-infectious psychiatric syndrome with childhood VZV infections.
Case presentation: Two individuals, a 6-year-old male and 10-year-old female developed a neuro-psychiatric syndrome 3-6 weeks following a confirmed VZV infection with intrathecal oligoclonal bands. The 6-year-old male presented with a myasthenic syndrome, behavior deterioration and regression in school, he was poorly responsive to IVIG and risperidone, however had a pronounced response to steroid treatment. The 10-year-old female presented with marked insomnia, agitation, and behavioral regression as well as mild bradykinesia. A trial of neuroleptics and sedatives resulted in a mild unsustained reduction in psychomotor agitation and IVIG was also unsuccessful, however the patient was very responsive to steroid therapy.
Conclusion: Psychiatric syndromes with evidence of intrathecal inflammation temporally related to VZV infections that are responsive to immune modulation have not been described before. Here we report two cases demonstrating neuro-psychiatric symptoms following VZV infection, with evidence of persistent CNS inflammation following the resolution of infection, and response to immune modulation.