Human herpesvirus-6 infection-associated acute encephalopathy without skin rash

Brain Dev. 2015 Sep;37(8):829-32. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2014.12.005. Epub 2015 Jan 9.


Background: Human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6) is the etiological agent of exanthema subitum-associated encephalopathy, which usually occurs in children younger than 3 years. Brain imaging shows various abnormalities.

Patient: A previously healthy 4-year-old girl developed acute encephalopathy with clinical features consisting of fever, repetitive seizures, and a disturbance of consciousness. The patient did not show skin rash suggestive of exanthema subitum during the course of her illness. The primary HHV-6 infection was diagnosed based on the absence of IgG against HHV-6 and identification of the virus DNA in the acute phase serum and a significant increase of the anti-HHV-6 IgG titers in the convalescent phase sera. Diffusion-weighted images showed transient high signal intensity in the bilateral periventricular white matter and splenium of the corpus callosum and in the gray matter structures such as the bilateral basal ganglia and thalami. Upon therapy with steroid and γ-globulin, the patient recovered without any neurological deficits.

Conclusion: Primary HHV-6 infection can cause acute encephalopathy without exanthema subitum. The etiological diagnosis is possible only by examining the blood and cerebrospinal fluid, when the patient shows no skin rash. This condition should be included in the differential diagnosis of acute encephalopathy even in patients older than 3 years.

Keywords: Diffusion-weighted imaging; Encephalitis; Encephalopathy; Exanthema subitum; Human herpesvirus-6; Magnetic resonance imaging; Periventricular white matter.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Diseases / virology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Encephalitis, Viral / blood
  • Encephalitis, Viral / pathology*
  • Encephalitis, Viral / virology*
  • Exanthema / virology
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 6, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Roseolovirus Infections / blood
  • Roseolovirus Infections / pathology*
  • Roseolovirus Infections / virology*
  • Seizures / virology

Supplementary concepts

  • Human Herpesvirus 6 encephalitis