Longitudinal Extensive Transverse Myelitis in an Immunocompetent Older Individual-A Rare Complication of Varicella-Zoster Virus Reactivation

Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 May 23;55(5):201. doi: 10.3390/medicina55050201.


Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a human neurotropic herpes virus that causes chickenpox in children. After becoming latent in dorsal root ganglia, it can reactivate to cause dermatological manifestations, the most common one being shingles or herpes zoster. Severe neurologic dysfunctions can occur in immunocompromised patients such as encephalitis, meningitis, myelitis and neuropathy. Longitudinal extensive transverse myelitis (LETM) is an unusual neurological complication mainly described in immunocompromised patients, with very few cases described in immunocompetent ones. We hereby report a case of VZV-induced LETM in an immunocompetent older adult-a situation rarely described in the literature. LETM is a rare complication of VZV and its pathogenesis; therapeutic interventions and prognosis are far from being fully clarified. However, a prompt diagnosis is needed to allow a rapid initialization of treatment and ensure a better outcome. Although the therapeutic lines are not clear, immunosuppressive agents may have their place in cases of unsuccessful results and/or relapses following acyclovir coupled with a well conducted methylprednisolone therapy. Further studies are highly needed to improve the current understanding of the disease course and mechanisms, and to optimize therapeutic strategies.

Keywords: herpes zoster; immunocompetence; longitudinal myelitis; myelitis; transverse myelitis; varicella zoster virus.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host / immunology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Myelitis, Transverse / complications*
  • Myelitis, Transverse / diagnostic imaging
  • Myelitis, Transverse / virology
  • Recurrence
  • Spinal Cord / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Cord / virology