Eastern equine encephalitis and use of IV immunoglobulin therapy and high-dose steroids

Objective

To determine the clinical presentation and patient outcomes after treatment with IV immunoglobulin (IVIG), high-dose steroids, or standard of care alone in Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a mosquito-borne viral infection with significant neurologic morbidity and mortality.

Methods

A retrospective observational study of patients admitted to 2 tertiary academic medical centers in Boston, Massachusetts, with EEE from 2005 to 2019.

Results

Of 17 patients (median [IQR] age, 63 [36–70] years; 10 (59%) male, and 16 (94%) White race), 17 patients had fever (100%), 15 had encephalopathy (88%), and 12 had headache (71%). Eleven of 14 patients with CSF cell count differential had a neutrophil predominance (mean = 60.6% of white blood cells) with an elevated protein level (median [IQR], 100 mg/dL [75–145]). Affected neuroanatomic regions included the basal ganglia (n = 9/17), thalamus (n = 7/17), and mesial temporal lobe (n = 7/17). A total of 11 patients (65%) received IVIG; 8 (47%) received steroids. Of the patients who received IVIG, increased time from hospital admission to IVIG administration correlated with worse long-term disability as assessed by the modified Rankin Scale (mRS) (r = 0.72, p = 0.02); steroid use was not associated with the mRS score. The mortality was 12%.

Conclusions

Clinicians should suspect EEE in immunocompetent patients with early subcortical neuroimaging abnormalities and CSF neutrophilic predominance. This study suggests a lower mortality than previously reported, but a high morbidity rate in EEE. IVIG as an adjunctive to standard of care may be considered early during hospitalization.

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