BALTIMORE — Nearly half of patients with West Nile virus had neurological abnormalities in a recent study.
A significant proportion of patients also had memory impairment, researchers reported at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting.
“As part of our study on West Nile virus in humans, we wanted to learn more about the complications of infection and how people suffer after they’ve been infected,” researcher Shannon E. Ronca, PhD, MPH, postdoctoral associate at the Baylor College of Medicine, told Infectious Disease News.
The researchers included 117 patients in their longitudinal cohort study. The patients were enrolled between 2002 and 2012 and underwent neurological and neurocognitive tests. Thirty of the patients also underwent MRIs.
In all, 57 patients (49%) had an abnormal finding. Decreased strength, abnormal reflexes and tremors were the most common issues experienced by 26%, 14% and 10% of patients, respectively.
Overall, 22% of patients were found to have impairment in the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS). In particular, immediate and delayed memory were the commonly impaired domains in that test, affecting 31% and 25% of patients, respectively.
Patients who had the virus and underwent MRIs had what the researchers called significant thinning in both brain hemispheres, mainly in the frontal and limbic lobes, compared with control patients. Infected patients also had significant atrophy in the cerebellum, brain stem, thalamus, putamen and globus pallidus.
Ronca said her research team gained valuable insight into the neurological complications of West Nile virus.
“We’re continuing to learn more and more about what happens to people after they’ve been infected with West Nile and starting to delineate more of the pieces of information. We need to be able to figure out how to prevent these kinds of things and how to make sure people have a good quality of life after they’ve been infected,” she said. – by Joe Green
Ronca SE, et al. Abstract 1310. Presented at: American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting; Nov. 5-9, 2017; Baltimore.
Disclosure: Ronca reports no relevant financial disclosures.