Rotavirus and central nervous system symptoms: cause or contaminant? Case reports and review

Clin Infect Dis. 2001 Oct 1;33(7):932-8. doi: 10.1086/322650. Epub 2001 Aug 22.


Rotavirus is a common cause of severe gastroenteritis in children. In 2 patients with rotavirus gastroenteritis who developed encephalopathy, rotavirus RNA was detected in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction; in 1 patient, rotavirus RNA was detected on 2 occasions 3 weeks apart. There are increasing reports of cases in which patients who have seizures after an episode of rotavirus diarrhea have evidence of rotavirus in their CSF. A search of 2 large hospital discharge databases suggested that seizures are noted as part of the discharge diagnosis in the records of, at most, <4% of patients with rotavirus diarrhea versus 7% of patients with bacterial diarrhea. Although evidence suggesting that rotavirus is a cause of central nervous system sequelae remains inconclusive, the 2 case reports presented in this study further illustrate a possible association. Further study is required to determine whether detection of rotavirus in CSF represents a true pathogen, CSF contamination that occurs at the time of lumbar puncture or in the laboratory, or carriage of rotavirus RNA in trafficking lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / virology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feces / virology
  • Female
  • Gastroenteritis / complications*
  • Gastroenteritis / virology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Rotavirus / isolation & purification
  • Rotavirus / physiology*
  • Rotavirus Infections / complications*
  • Rotavirus Infections / virology