Distribution of herpes simplex virus type 1 in human geniculate and vestibular ganglia: implications for vestibular neuritis

Ann Neurol. 1999 Sep;46(3):416-9. doi: 10.1002/1531-8249(199909)46:3<416::aid-ana20>3.0.co;2-w.


Vestibular neuritis is a common cause of partial unilateral vestibular paralysis, which usually spares posterior semicircular canal function. The cause is assumed to be a viral reactivation of latent herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) in human vestibular ganglia. The existence of an anastomosis between the intermediate nerve and the superior vestibular nerve suggests the question of whether selective affliction of the superior vestibular nerve is the result of migration of HSV-1 from the geniculate ganglion along this faciovestibular anastomosis. We determined the distribution of HSV-1 among geniculate ganglia, vestibular ganglia, and within Scarpa's ganglion by examining 35 human temporal bones by polymerase chain reaction. HSV-1 was found in 66% of geniculate ganglia and 60% of vestibular ganglia; all examined parts of vestibular ganglia were almost equally HSV-1 infected. Our data provided no support for viral migration along this anastomosis or for a preferential latency of HSV-1 in the superior vestibular nerve. We suggest that the common double innervation of the posterior ampulla by two nerves running in two separate bony canals could offer an alternative explanation for the regular sparing of posterior canal function in vestibular neuritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Sensory / virology*
  • Geniculate Bodies / virology*
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuritis / virology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Vestibular Nerve / pathology
  • Vestibular Nerve / virology*