SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.66 issue6Severity classification for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis by using fuzzy logicRearfoot alignment and medial longitudinal arch configurations of runners with symptoms and histories of plantar fasciitis author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand




Related links



Print version ISSN 1807-5932

Clinics vol.66 no.6 São Paulo  2011 



Neuroinfection survey at a neurological ward in a Brazilian tertiary teaching hospital



Paulo E MarchioriI; Angelina M M LinoI; Luis R MachadoI; Livia M PedaliniII; Marcos BoulosIII; Milberto ScaffI

INeurology Department, Hospital das Clinicas da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
IIPublic Health Faculty, São Paulo, Brazil
IIIInfectious Diseases Department, Hospital das Clinicas da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil




OBJECTIVES: This study was undertaken to characterize the neuroinfection profile in a tertiary neurological ward.
INTRODUCTION: Neuroinfection is a worldwide concern and bacterial meningitis, tetanus and cerebral malaria have been reported as the commonest causes in developing countries.
METHODS: From 1999 to 2007, all patients admitted to the Neurology Ward of Hospital das Clínicas, São Paulo University School of Medicine because of neuroinfection had their medical records reviewed. Age, gender, immunological status, neurological syndrome at presentation, infectious agent and clinical outcome were recorded.
RESULTS: Three hundred and seventy four cases of neuroinfectious diseases accounted for 4.2% of ward admissions and the identification of infectious agent was successful in 81% of cases. Mean age was 40.5 + 13.4 years, 63.8% were male, 19.7% were immunocompromised patients and meningoencephalitis was the most common clinical presentation despite infectious agent. Viruses and bacteria were equally responsible for 29.4% of neuroinfectious diseases; parasitic, fungal and prion infections accounted for 28%, 9.6% and 3.5% respectively. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1), Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Treponema pallidum, Taenia solium, Schistosoma mansoni, Cryptococcus neoformans and Histoplasma capsulatum were the more common infectious pathogens in the patients. Infection mortality rate was 14.2%, of which 62.3% occurred in immunocompetent patients.
CONCLUSION: Our institution appeared to share some results with developed and developing countries. Comparison with literature may be considered as quality control to health assistance.

Keywords: Infectious Diseases; Nervous System; Tropical Medicine; Epidemiology; Neurology.




Neuroinfection is a worldwide concern and an important cause of morbidity and mortality. Bacterial meningitis, tetanus and cerebral malaria have been reported as the commonest causes of neuroinfection in developing countries.1,2 Mainly resulting from African countries, these data may not only reflect the poorest communities of developing countries, but also the inadequacy of hospital infrastructure and laboratory resources associated with civil war in many of these countries.3 However, differences in economical, political and climatic characteristics, and quality of health assistance, could contribute to distinct epidemiological data. The current study was undertaken to determine the frequency and characterize clinical aspects of neuroinfection admitted to our tropical neurological ward.



This retrospective study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Hospital das Clínicas, Sao Paulo University School of Medicine, Brazil. Our tertiary teaching hospital has 970 beds, of which 26 belong to the Neurology Division which also has an infectious diseases ward that receives the majority of infectious cases. From 12 December 1999 to 12 December 2007, all patients admitted because of neuroinfection had their medical records reviewed. The main inclusion criterion was positive infectious pathogen identification, including our previously reported cases.4,5 Although we had patients with undetermined infectious agents, we also included patients who had neurological manifestations and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) abnormalities that suggested infectious disease. Clinical improvement occurring after antibiotic treatment and other non-infectious etiologies were excluded. Age, gender, immunological status, neurological syndrome, infectious agent and clinical outcome were recorded when the inclusion criteria had been fulfilled. Neurological syndromes were classified as: meningitis; meningoencephalitis; stroke; and, myelitis.6 Confirmed by electroneuromyographic studies, peripheral nervous system (PNS) encompassed spinal roots, plexuses or peripheral nerve affection.7 Clinical involvement of cerebellar and/or brain stem structures was recorded as posterior fossa and brain space occupying lesion was applied when abscess or granuloma were seen during imaging studies despite neurological signs. Simultaneous or serial inflammation of the meninges, brain, medulla and spinal roots were classified as overlap involvement. Computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and extensive blood and CSF analyses were carried out in all patients. The infectious agent was identified from CSF (Gram staining, culture, antibody detection or protein chain reaction) or nervous tissue samples (histology and/or culture). The outcome was classified as death, and unaltered or improved based on neurological examination at hospital discharge.



Between 1999 and 2007, 8760 patients were admitted. Cerebrovascular diseases and pulse therapy for multiple sclerosis and non-infectious inflammatory neuropathies were the main reasons for admission. Initial diagnosis of neuroinfection occurred in 416 patients, but 42 were excluded after laboratorial investigation: systemic lupus erythematosus (3), chronic idiopathic meningitis with low glucose level (1), Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease (2), Behcet disease (17), sarcoidosis (5), meningeal carcinomatosis (2), undetermined eosynophilic meningitis (2) and Rasmussen's encephalitis (10). The inclusion criteria were fulfilled by 374 patients (4.2%, 374/8760), mean age was 40.5 + 13.4 years (range: 13-88 years), and 63.8% were male. Sixty-nine (18.4%, 69/374) patients were immunocompromised as a result of solid organ transplantation (7), acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS; 42), diabetes mellitus (7), chronic hepatopathy (3), systemic lupus erythematosus (4), aplastic anemia (2), neoplasia (2) and T-cell dysfunction (2). The most common clinical presentation was meningoencephalitis (211/374) in immunocompromised and non-mmunocompromised patients (Table 1). The infectious pathogen was identified in 81% (303/374) of cases, and presumed viral and bacterial neuroinfections were assumed in 8% (30/374) and 10.9% (41/374) of atients, respectively.



Virus accounted for 29.4% (110/374) of admissions (Table 2). Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was the most commonly identified virus with self-limited aseptic meningoencephalitis during the seroconversion period, followed closely by herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1). Three non-immunocompromised-patients with HSV1 infection died as a result of hemorrhagic form despite serial treatment with acyclovir, intravenous methylprednisolone, pulse therapy and plasmapheresis. JC virus (JCV) infection occurred in association with immunodeficiency (one patient had ovarian cancer and two had AIDS).

Also, 29.4% (110/374) of admissions were as a result of bacterial infection (Table 3). Mycobacterium tuberculosis was the main pathogen identified by positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 82.6% (19/23) of patients and histological study in the remainder. Another important agent was Treponema pallidum. Although intravenous penicillin G (24 million/day) had been administered for 21 days, no response was observed in two patients with progressive general paresis and only slight improvement occurred in patients with meningovascular syphilis. PNS involvement was commonly observed in bacterial infection. Polyradiculitis was diagnosed in two patients with tuberculosis and peripheral neuropathy appeared with Mycobacterium leprae (three), and Bartonella henselae (one) infection.

Parasites comprised 28% (105/374) of neurology ward (NW) admissions, of which Taenia solium and Schistosoma mansoni were the most common. Accounting for 64.8% of parasitic infection, all cases of T. solium presented with meningoencephalitis in 66 non-immunocompromised and two immunocompromised patients. Status epilepticus owing to the degenerating intraparechymatous larval form of T. solium was the main clinical presentation (n = 55). Moreover, intraventricular vesicles caused ventriculitis in three non-immunocompromised patients, two of whom underwent endoscopic resection and one died. In addition, two other non-immunocompromised patients developed hydrocephalus owing to racemous cysts in the spinal cord with clinical improvement after ventricular drainage. S. mansoni was identified in 21 (20%) non-immunocompromised patients representing the most important cause of myelitis (n= 20) in our series; however, one presented with stroke. Antiparasitic drugs were only used in neurocysticercosis and schistosomiasis when parasitic eggs had been found in stools or a rectal biopsy. Schistosoma japonicum caused brain space occupying lesion in one non-immunocompromised patient who had just returned from Japan.

Triggering meningoencephalitis in immunocompromised-patients, Toxoplasma gondii, Trypanosoma cruzi and Strongyloides stercoralis were isolated in 11, 2, and 2 patients, respectively.

Accounting for 9.6% (36/374) of cases, fungi caused more severe disease, longer hospital stay (data not shown) and higher mortality rate than other infectious agents. brain space occupying lesion owing to Penicillium marffenei, Cryptococcus neoformans and Paracoccidioides braziliensis occurred in one immunocompromised, two non-immunocompromised and three non-immunocompromised patients, respectively. Presenting with meningoencephalitis, the identified agents were C. neoformans (four non-immunocompromised, five immunocompromised patients), Histoplasmosis capsulatum (five non-immunocompromised patient, one immunocompromised patient), Zygomicetes (five immunocompromised-patients), Pseudallescheria boydii (two non-immunocompromised patients, one immunocompromised patient), and Aspergillus fumigatus (two immunocompromised patients). In addition, Cladophialophora batiana, Phialophora fonsecae and Chromomycetes accounted with one non-immunocompromised patient each and Candida sp. and Rhodotorula sp. with one immunocompromised-patient each. Particularly, zygomicosis occurred in five diabetic patients with disseminated cerebral presentation.

Progressive dementia, myoclonus and periodic sharp wave complexes on electroencephalogram (EEG) were present in all patients with prion disease (n = 13). Moreover, clinical and electrophysiological features of inferior motor neuron disorder were seen in three patients, and 14.3.3 protein was present in four patients in whom PCR analysis was carried out.

Considering the clinical outcome, 14.2% (53/374) of patients died, of whom 62.3% (33/53) were non-immunocompromised patients (Table 4). Despite having neurological disability at hospital discharge, 82% (307/374) of patients had improved neurological status (Table 5). All patients with presumed viral infection (n = 30) and 34% (14/ 41) of patients with undetermined bacterial meningitis were asymptomatic at hospital discharge.






In our study, neuroinfection predominated in young adults and males. Considering similar results published by Chapp-Jumbo (mean age 34.1 years, 62.9% males) in Africa and Tan et al. (mean age 42.5 years, 56% males) in North-America,8,9 these data did not seem to be influenced by geographical area or quality of health assistance and could reflect high environmental exposition (recreational and working activities) of young persons, particularly males.

In comparison to developed countries' data, our admission and agent identification rates were closer to the data series published by Tan et al (3.8% and 68.9%, respectively) than African teaching infectious disease ward, where admission rates ranged from 11% to 23% and the identification rate was 45%.8,9,10 In addition, the frequency of undetermined neuroinfection was less than 31% in Tan et al.9 As reported by these authors, undetermined neuroinfection was frequently diagnosed in non-immunocompromised patients in our series. Indeed, our neuroinfection mortality was closer to rates in North America that ranged from 1.7% to 12% than the 47% reported by Chapp-Jumbo.8,9,11 Analogously to North-American NW results,9 prion and fungi were the more important lethal agents in our patients. However, a high mortality of fungal infection was a common finding, not only in North-American, but also in African studies.8,10,12

In our study, pathogen identification occurred in 81% of patients, being higher than results reported in developed countries.9,11 It could possibly be an overestimation as a result of our inclusion criterion requiring positive agent identification, which could also explain 100% identification in parasitic and fungal infections. Another contributing factor was virus recognition in more than 72% of meningoencephalitis cases. According to the literature, virus identification ranged from 15.3% to 81.5% with the highest values being observed in industrialized countries.13 Particularly in suspected viral neuroinfection, we follow the international consensus that recommends repetition of virological tests in serum and CFS.14 Ordinary agents causing meningococcal, pneumococcal, streptococcal, staphylococcal and hemophilus meningitis were not observed in our series possibly as a result of referral bias. For example, common causes of meningitis could be treated by the Internal Medicine or Infectious Diseases services of our hospital whose patients were not included in our study or could be referred to Hospital Emílio Ribas, which is an infectious diseases center located in same geographical area as our institution.

Some infectious diseases are commonly associated with under-development. Considering that more than 90% of tuberculosis cases in the world are found in developing countries,15 it is not surprising that neurotuberculosis was the most frequent bacterial infection in our series. Moreover, neglected tropical diseases have high morbidity with neuropaludism and schistosomiasis being the first and second identified causes in Africa, respectively.10,16 Similar to these reports, our series showed a great number of parasitic diseases in which cysticercosis and schistosomiasis were the main causes with low mortality and high morbidity. Cysticercosis has been considered as a biological marker of social and economic development, an identified cause of epilepsy in 26.3% to 53.8% of patients, and is endemic in most of developing countries.17,18 In addition, more than 200 million people have schistosomiasis in tropical countries and 600 million people live in its transmission zones, where the snail habitat has increased as a result of the implementation of agriculture and fresh water exposition combined with lack of sanitary systems.19 Brazil is considered the country most affected by schistosomiasis in the Americas and takes part in one of the American developing vaccine programs.20,21 Schistosomiasis has been associated with liver fibrosis, portal hypertension and hepatosplenomegaly as the more severe clinical impairments, but our study showed myelitis as another infection-associated disability. According to Wadhwa et al,22 C. neoformans was the most common cause of fungal meningitis in our series. However, some reports showed other agents, such as Candida albicans in an African study or aspergillosis and zygomicosis in an Indian pathological report, in which cryptococcosis accounted for 2% of histological samples.12,23 Histoplasma capsulatum was the second more frequent fungus in our cases, possibly because of its high prevalence in Brazil.24 Also, regional variability in the fungal aetiological spectrum would possibly be expected in countries that have continental dimensions with distinct ecological settings.



This retrospective study had methodological limitations related to scarce epidemiological reports from tropical countries. Taking into account the characteristics of our institution, our results did not represent a tropical neuroinfection profile but could be considered as a panel commonly found in other tropical tertiary NW and certainly different from infectious disease ward admissions at same institution. Although comparison with literature data could be a matter of debate owing to differences in health facilities, period and design of studies, and type of population or ward, it could be used as a tool to control the quality of health assistance.



1. Krcméry V, Fedor-Freyberg PG. Neuroinfections in developed versus developing countries. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2007;28(Suppl. 2):5-6.         [ Links ]

2. Talabi AO. A 3-year review of neurologic admissions in University College Hospital Ibadan, Nigeria. West Afr J Med. 2003;22:150-1.         [ Links ]

3. Shears P. Poverty and infection in developing world: healthcare-related infections and infection control in the tropics. J Hosp Infec. 2007;67:217-24, doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2007.08.016.         [ Links ]

4. de Andrade DC, Nogueira RC, Lucato LT, Marchiori PE, Machado LR, Teixeira MJ, et al. Isolated CNS Whipple disease with a variant of oculofacial-skeletal myorhythmia (OFSM). Neurology. 2007;69:E12, doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000277047.22403.8d.         [ Links ]

5. Marchiori PE, Alexandre PL, Britto N, Patzima RA, Fiorelli AA, Lucato LT, et al. Late reactivation of Chagas' disease presenting in a recipient as an expansive mass lesion in the brain after heart transplantation of chagasic myocardiopathy. J Heart Lung Transplant. 2007;26:1091-6, doi: 10.1016/j.healun.2007.07.043.         [ Links ]

6. Verma A. Infections of the nervous system. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 4 th. Ed. Philadelphia:Butterworth Heinemann;2007.p. 1473-630.         [ Links ]

7. Gardner E, Bunge RP. Gross anatomy of the peripheral nervous system. In: Dyck PJ, Thomas PK, Griffin JW, Low PA, Poduslo JF. Peripheral Neuropathy. 3rd. ed. Philadelphia:WB Saunders Co.; 1993.p. 8-27.         [ Links ]

8. Chapp-Jumbo EN. Neurologic infections in a Nigerian university teaching hospital. African Health Sciences. 2006;6:55-8.         [ Links ]

9. Tan K, Patel S, , N. Gandhi N, Chow F, Rumbaugh J, Nath A. Burden of neuroinfectious diseases on the neurology service in a tertiary care center. Neurology. 2008;71:1160-6, doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000327526.71683.b7.         [ Links ]

10. Soumare M, Seydi M, Ndour CT, Fall N, Dieng Y, Sow AI, et al. Epidemiological, clinical, etiological features of neuromeningeal diseases at Fann Hospital Infectious Diseases Clinic, Dakar (Senegal). Med Mal Infect. 2005;35:383-9, doi: 10.1016/j.medmal.2005.03.009.         [ Links ]

11. Jaren O, Selwa L. Cases of mortality on a University Hospital neurology service. Neurologist. 2006;12:245-8, doi: 10.1097/01.nrl.0000240859.97587. 48.         [ Links ]

12. Ngambi S, Huttova M, Kovac M, Freybergh PF, Bauer F, Muli JM. Fungal neuroinfections: rare disease but unacceptably high mortality. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2007;28:25-6.         [ Links ]

13. Jmor F, Emsley HCA, Fisher M, Solomon T, Lewthwaite P. The incidence of acute encephalitis syndrome in Western industrialized and tropical countries. Virol J. 2008;5:134-46, doi: 10.1186/1743-422X-5-134.         [ Links ]

14. Steiner I, Budka H, Chaudhuri A, Koskiniemi M, Sainio K, Salonen O, et al. Viral encephalitis: a review of diagnostic methods and guidelines for management. Eur J Neurol. 2005; 12:331-43, doi: 10.1111/J.1468-1331.2005.01126.x.         [ Links ]

15. Goldstein W, Mainon N, Avendaño M. Central nervous system tuberculous abscess. Eur J Int Med. 2007;18:504-6, doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2007.02.017.         [ Links ]

16. Hopkins DR, Richards FO, Ruiz-Tiben E, Emerson P, Withers Jr PC. Dracunculiasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, and trachoma.Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008;1136:45-52, doi: 10.1196/annals.1425.015.         [ Links ]

17. Garcia HH, Gonzalez AE, Evans CAW, Gilman RH, Cysticercosis Working Group in Peru. Taenia solium cysticercosis. Lancet. 2003;362:547-56, doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(03)14117-7.         [ Links ]

18. Prasad KN, Prasad A, Verma A, Singh AK. Human cysticercosis and Indian scenario: a review. J Biosci. 2008;33: 571-82, doi: 10.1007/s12038-008-0075-y.         [ Links ]

19. Hatz CFR. Schistosomiasis: an underestimated problem in industrialized contries? J Travel Med. 2005;12:1-2, doi: 10.2310/7060.2005.00001.         [ Links ]

20. Hotez PJ, Brown AS. Neglected tropical diseases vaccines. Biologicals. 2009;37:160-4, doi: 10.1016/j.biologicals.2009.02.008.         [ Links ]

21. King CH, Dangerfield-Cha M. The unacknowledged impact of chronic schistosomiasis. Chronic Illness. 2008;4:65-79, doi: 10.1177/ 1742395307084407.         [ Links ]

22. Wadhwa A, Kaur R, Bhalla P. Profile of central nervous system disease in HIV/AIDS patients with special reference to cryptococcal infections. Neurologist. 2008;14:247-51, doi: 10.1097/NRL.0b013e3181678a7a.         [ Links ]

23. Sundaran C, Umabala P, Laxmi V, Purohit AK, Prasad VS, Panigrahi M, et al. Pathology of fungal infections of the central nervous system: 17 years' experience from Southern India. Histopathology. 2006;49:396-405, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2559.2006.02515.x.         [ Links ]

24. Mata-Essayag S, Colella MT, Roselló A, de Capriles CH, Landaeta ME, de Salazar CP, et al. Histoplasmosis: a study of 158 cases in Venezuela, 2000-2005. Medicine. 2008;87:193-202, doi: 10.1097/MD. 0b013e31817fa2a8.         [ Links ]



Received for publication on December 21, 2011; First review completed on February 14, 2011; Accepted for publication on March 10, 2011



E-mail: Tel.: 55 11 30697877

Creative Commons License All the contents of this journal, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License