Fatal encephalitis associated with Zika virus infection in an adult

J Clin Virol. 2016 Oct;83:63-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2016.08.297. Epub 2016 Aug 30.


Background: Zika virus (ZIKV) was first identified in the Americas in 2015, when an outbreak of an exanthematous illness occurred in Brazil. Subsequentely, there was an increase of microcephaly cases, suggesting an association between ZIKV and this neurological complication. Currently, ZIKV has been recognised as causing a wide range of neurological complications including Guillain Barré syndrome, and myelitis.

Objectives: In this report, we describe the first fatal case of encephalitis in a 47 years old non pregnant woman, infected during the Brazilian zika epidemic of 2016.

Study design: The diagnosis of encephalitis was determined by the presence of a disturbed level of consciousness and focal neurological signs during an exanthemous viral infection.

Results: CSF analysis supported the diagnosis of viral encephalitis, revealing lymphocytic pleocytosis, a high protein concentration, and the presence of IgM zika antibodies. RT-PCR analysis for ZIKV was positive in the urine. A brain computed tomography showed massive brain swelling. Our case differs from previous reports, because her neurological picture developed rapidly and in a very aggressive manner leading to brain death after eleven days of admission.

Conclusion: In endemic areas, ZIKV should be considered as an aetiological agent in cases of encephalitis, and clinicians should be aware of its potential severity.

Keywords: Encephalitis; Neurological manifestations; Zika virus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Encephalitis, Viral*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Zika Virus Infection*
  • Zika Virus*