Neurological Complications of Dengue Fever

Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2022 Jun 21;1-15. doi: 10.1007/s11910-022-01213-7. Online ahead of print.


Purpose of review: To discuss the neurological complications of dengue virus (DENV) infection and their pathogenesis.

Recent findings: Include recognition of the four different serotypes of DENV and their epidemiology as well as recognition of the expanded dengue syndrome encompassing multisystem involvement in the severe form of the disease including involvement of the central nervous system (CNS). DENV is a neurotropic virus with the ability to infect the supporting cells of the CNS. Neural injury during the acute stage of the infection results from direct neuro-invasion and/or the phenomenon of antibody-dependent enhancement, resulting in plasma leakage and coagulopathy. Immune mechanisms have been implicated in the development of the delayed neurological sequelae through molecular mimicry. A myriad of neurological syndromes has been described as a result of the involvement of the CNS, the peripheral nervous system (PNS), or both. Neurological manifestations in DENV infection are increasingly being recognized, some of which are potentially fatal if not treated promptly. DENV encephalopathy and encephalitis should be considered in the differential diagnosis of other acute febrile encephalopathies, autoimmune encephalitides, and in cases of encephalopathy/encephalitis related to SARS-CoV2 infection, especially in dengue-endemic areas. Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) may be occasionally encountered. Clinicians should be knowledgeable of the expanded dengue syndrome characterized by the concurrent compromise of cardiac, neurological, gastrointestinal, renal, and hematopopoietic systems. Isolated cranial nerve palsies occur rather uncommonly and are often steroid responsive. These neuropathies may result from the direct involvement of cranial nerve nuclei or nerve involvement or may be immune-mediated. Even if the diagnosis of dengue is confirmed, it is absolutely imperative to exclude other well-known causes of isolated cranial nerve palsies. Ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes may occur following dengue fever. The pathogenesis may be beyond the commonly observed thrombocytopenia and include cerebral vasculitis. Involvement of ocular blood vessels may cause maculopathy or retinal hemorrhages. Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) is uncommon and possibly related to dysregulated cytokine release phenomena. Lastly, any patient developing acute neuromuscular weakness during the course or within a fortnight of remission from dengue fever must be screened for acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP), hypokalemic paralysis, or acute myositis. Rarely, a Miller-Fisher-like syndrome with negative anti-GQ1b antibody may develop.

Keywords: Dengue hemorrhagic fever; Dengue shock syndrome; Dengue virus; Neurological complications of dengue.

Publication types

  • Review