Neuroviral Disease


Viruses and microorganisms sometimes invade the body, infecting various organs and causing everything from mild disturbances to serious problems. Some studies have revealed the relationship between the onset of neurological disorders and viral infections. Viral infection may cause neurological symptoms or lead to immune responses that trigger these pathological signs. Clinically, neurological diseases caused by viruses can be divided into acute and chronic syndromes. In some cases, encephalitis caused by viral infection can be life-threatening.


Neuroviruses refer to any virus affecting the nervous system. Viruses that infect the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) include herpesviruses (see also herpes simplex virus infections), arboviruses, coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, enteroviruses, etc. Many viruses are non-neurotropic viruses (most of them respiratory viruses) but have neurological complications that arise with the disease or as later sequelae, such as influenza viruses. Viral encephalitis can also result from indirect mechanisms that disrupt neuronal function including neurological complications of immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 disease.

Neuroviral Disease

  • Meningitis
  • The vast majority of aseptic meningitis cases are caused by human enteroviruses (HEV) that mostly target children. However, many other viruses have the ability to cause meningitis including St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV), bunyaviruses, mumps virus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), HSV-1 and 2, and HIV-1.

  • Encephalitis
  • HEVs and alphaviruses, such as Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses primarily infect neurons within the CNS, which has a cytopathic effect. Flaviviruses can also target CNS neurons and cause cytopathology. Except for directly neuropathic, viral encephalitis can also result from indirect mechanisms that disrupt neuronal function, such as HIV-1.

  • Myelitis
  • Some viruses cause disease in the spinal cord. Poliovirus, West Nile virus (WNV), tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), and Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) infections have all been associated with acute flaccid paralysis. Rabies virus can also cause disease in the spinal cord.

  • Epilepsy
  • A great diversity of viruses has been associated with epilepsy. Acute seizures and epilepsy have been linked to human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6 ) infections, especially in children. Studies suggest that encephalitis caused by HSV-1 replication increases the likelihood of spontaneous seizures and epilepsy by approximately 20%. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may also cause nonparaneoplastic autoimmune encephalitis, which has been related to late-onset epilepsy.

Immunopathogenesis of fatal meningitis induced by lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. Fig.1 Immunopathogenesis of fatal meningitis induced by lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. (Swanson, 2015)

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  1. Swanson, P.A. 2nd; McGavern, D.B. Viral diseases of the central nervous system. Curr Opin Virol. 2015, 11: 44-54.

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