Millions of children are infected by enteroviruses each year, usually exhibiting only mild symptoms. Nevertheless, these viruses are also associated with severe and life-threatening infections, such as meningitis and encephalitis. We describe a 32-month-old patient with enteroviral encephalitis confirmed by polymerase chain reaction in cerebrospinal fluid, with unfavorable clinical course with marked developmental regression, autistic features, persistent stereotypes and aphasia. She experienced slow clinical improvement, with mild residual neurologic and developmental deficits at follow-up. Viral central nervous system infections in early childhood have been associated with autism spectrum disorders but the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood. This case report is significant in presenting a case of developmental regression with autistic features and loss of language improving on follow-up. To our knowledge, this is the first published report of enterovirus encephalitis leading to an autism spectrum disorder.
Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; children; encephalitis; enterovirus.