Infections of the central nervous system (CNS) with herpes- or enterovirus can be self-limiting and benign, but occasionally result in severe and fatal disease. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has revolutionized the diagnostics of viral pathogens, and by multiple displacement amplification (MDA) prior to real-time PCR the sensitivity might be further enhanced. The aim of this study was to investigate if herpes- or enterovirus can be detected in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from patients without symptoms.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from 373 patients lacking typical symptoms of viral CNS infection were analysed by real-time PCR targeting herpesviruses or enteroviruses with or without prior MDA.
In total, virus was detected in 17 patients (4%). Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) was most commonly detected, in general from patients with other conditions (e.g. infections, cerebral hemorrhage). MDA satisfactorily amplified viral DNA in the absence of human nucleic acids, but showed poor amplification capacity for viral DNA in CSF samples, and did not increase the sensitivity for herpes virus-detection with our methodology.
Viral pathogens are rarely detected in CSF from patients without signs of CNS infection, supporting the view that real-time PCR is a highly specific method to detect symptomatic CNS-infection caused by these viruses. However, EBV may be subclinically reactivated due to other pathological conditions in the CNS.
The article is published online in BMC Infectious Diseases and is free to access.