Cognitive impairment 3 years after neurological Varicella-zoster virus infection: a long-term case control study
Journal article, 2013
Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is one of the most common viruses causing central nervous system (CNS) infection, sometimes with severe neurological complications and sequelae despite appropriate antiviral treatment. Whether the neurological sequelae of VZV CNS infections include long-term cognitive impairment and how this impairment might affect the patients is still largely unknown. In this study, 14 patients with predominant CNS manifestations caused by VZV infection underwent cognitive testing 3 years (median 39.5 months, range 31-52 months) after acute disease. The results were compared with those for 28 controls, matched for age and gender. The tests covered the cognitive domains of speed and attention, memory and learning, visuospatial function, language and executive function. To further assess the cognitive dysfunction caused by neurological VZV infection, patients were classified into the concept of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is associated with development of dementia in other pathologies. The VZV patients performed significantly worse than controls on four tests covering the domains of speed and attention, memory and learning and executive function. The cut-off was set at 1.5 SD below mean age. In addition, a greater proportion of VZV patients were classified with MCI as compared with controls. In conclusion, patients with previous VZV infection affecting the brain had signs of long-term cognitive impairment in the domains of speed and attention, memory and learning and executive function. However, larger study populations are needed to confirm these results.